Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Kathleen Thomas
Dear Editor,
Thank you for introducing me to the Australian poet Stephen Edgar via the illuminating essay by Clive James [“On a Second Reading,” January 2009]. James reluctantly uses the word “perfect” to describe Edgar’s poem “Man on the Moon,” for fear that the adjective “just doesn’t convey enough meaning to cover, or even approach” the integrity of the poem. I disagree. The word “perfect” is just that, if we consider the many meanings of that word: lacking nothing essential to the whole; being without defect or blemish; complete; thorough; utter; excellent and delightful in all respects; having both stamens and pistils in the same flower.

James identifies a single flaw in the penultimate stanza, in which the poet quotes one of his own poems and acknowleges as much with the words “to quote myself.” Far from detracting from the poem’s ability to stand on its own, however, this device anticipates and reinforces the poem’s haunting conclusion: “And everything I think, I think alone.” As James points out, the poet “has been talking to himself all along.” And doing it . . . perfectly.

Lake Placid, New York

Originally Published: April 1, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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