In her tribute to Richard Wilbur’s generous character and memorable poetry, Phyllis Rose notes that the earliest poem in the Collected Poems was written in 1943, when he was twenty-two. I am prompted to share what I knowalbeit second-handof an even younger Richard Wilbur. My mother, Sally Coan, graduated from Montclair High School in New Jersey with Wilbur in 1938. They each, along with a few other classmates, received the “owl pin,” an honor not awarded for brilliance or academic achievement (in which case my mother, for one, would have been out of the running) but for “citizenship.” Recipients were those who had contributed to the general good of the community. Growing up in the fifties and early sixties, I often heard my mother greet announcement of his successive achievements with comments like, “We all knew Dick Wilbur would amount to something special, we just didn’t know what.”
I suspect that the portrait in the attic that Rose mentions doesn’t exist: what we are fortunate to have is poetry as consistently elegant and true as the man himself.