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Q & A: Geoffrey Brock

Could you talk a little about the Lear allusion, “ripeness is all”?

Unlike the Frost echo in my Rèbora translation, this echo of Shakespeare (“maturità era tutto”) is clearly intentional. I hesitate to make too much of it, though. While the line (spoken by Edgar to Gloucester) comes from a play about fathers and their children, there’s nothing in the poem to suggest the paternal agonies that are the stuff of Lear. Rather, the subject of this mid-year, mid-life poem is the painful but proper experience of seeing one’s children leave home and make their way into the wider world. (Where, by the way, they seem to have done pretty well: Bertolucci’s sons are both highly regarded filmmakers.) 


I’m struck by the beautiful use of the word “humanely” in line fourteen. Could you say more about how it functions? It seems almost to impart personification to the entity of “pain.”

It is a lovely word, and you’re right that it seems almost as if the pain itself is deciding, kindly, to give the speaker a break and be on its way. It would be such a different poem were it not for that light coming on when it does—showing that, though the sons have set out alone, they haven’t left the speaker alone: the light is the sign of some ongoing companionship, which seems to ease his losses. And the storm passes, having actually improved the quality of the evening. “Poppies” strikes me as that rare poem in which the bitter and the sweet find a nearly perfect balance­.


This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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