Adam’s Task

By John Hollander 1929–2013 John Hollander

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field ... GEN. 2:20

Thou, paw-paw-paw; thou, glurd; thou, spotted
   Glurd; thou, whitestap, lurching through   
The high-grown brush; thou, pliant-footed,
   Implex; thou, awagabu.

Every burrower, each flier
   Came for the name he had to give:   
Gay, first work, ever to be prior,   
   Not yet sunk to primitive.

Thou, verdle; thou, McFleery’s pomma;
   Thou; thou; thou—three types of grawl;   
Thou, flisket; thou, kabasch; thou, comma-
   Eared mashawk; thou, all; thou, all.

Were, in a fire of becoming,
   Laboring to be burned away,
Then work, half-measuring, half-humming,   
   Would be as serious as play.

Thou, pambler; thou, rivarn; thou, greater   
   Wherret, and thou, lesser one;
Thou, sproal; thou, zant; thou, lily-eater.   
   Naming’s over. Day is done.

John Hollander, “Adam’s Task” from Selected Poetry. Copyright © 1993 by John Hollander. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Selected Poetry (1993)

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Poet John Hollander 1929–2013

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Animals, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 John  Hollander


John Hollander was one of contemporary poetry’s foremost poets, editors, and anthologists. Over the course of an astonishing career, Hollander influenced generations of poets and thinkers with his critical work, his anthologies and his poetry. In the words of J. D. McClatchy, Hollander was "a formidable presence in American literary life." Hollander’s eminence as a scholar and critic was in some ways greater than his reputation . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Animals, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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