from &: A Serial Poem

By Daryl Hine 1936–2012 Daryl Hine
Such pejorative deformities of sound
Without meaningful speech or musical equipoise,
Annoyances none but hoi polloi enjoys,
Through our winding whispering galleries resound
Unwelcome, & like a tedious siege surround
Us with that ubiquitous nuisance, noise,
Which may take the shape of inflated reputation,
Able neither to stun, astonish nor astound
Those whom obscene publicity annoys,
Who prefer the decent obscurity of publication.


Regardless of the weird world’s disregard,
These works may be devoted to the wastebasket
Like the forgotten forgeries of some casket
Letters, scored for posterity & scarred
By repentance. Sentenced to a futility of hard
Leisure, answer nothing but the task it
Asks, apart from any eternal return.
Perhaps a masterpiece, unmade, unmarred,
Awaits the patient skill that will unmask it.
A lifetime passes as the phrases turn.


Immured in a single-occupancy cell,
Each day indistinguishable from the next,
& nearly inextinguishable, perplexed
How all manner of things shall nevertheless be well,
Will a celibate selfish as a shellfish spell
Out a corrupt & uncorrected text
So that each deleted syllable counts?
Solitude is helpless to dispel
Questions as exceptionably vexed
As unaccountable love’s unaudited accounts.


To keep your cell the way you keep your soul,
Untidy-minded, neither soiled nor sold
For next to nothing, a treasury of old
Notions like the notes of a piano-roll
Which cannot improvise though it knows a whole
Repertoire, what ought one to withhold?
Idiosyncrasy is nobody else’s business.
Of all omens the soul provides the sole
Depository. How many oceans can it hold
In its infinite & unfathomable isness?


Sealed & secured, the contents of this room
Turned our intimate alcove into a closet
Concealed behind a dirty bookcase: was it
A conservatory or a living room,
This stanza become a catacomb or tomb
That serves as a temporary safe deposit
Vault for your perduring lost & found
Mind, which articulately could presume
To ask of being what could cause it,
A question as unanswerable as profound.


Up the steps of imperfection we stumble & stall,
Blind upstarts, our feeble feet astray & unstable,
Panting after perfections we are no more able
To encompass than an imaginative animal.
While some describe the world as round as a ball,
Others maintain that it is flat like a table.
Its shape is immaterial, there like the air.
Better, perhaps, to be sorry than safe after all,
Seeing no security could enable
One to scale unscathed the inexorable stair.

Source: Poetry (December 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2009
 Daryl  Hine


Poet, editor, and translator Daryl Hine was born in 1936 in British Columbia and grew up in New Westminster. His mother’s death while he was still a teenager had a profound influence on him. He studied Classics and philosophy at McGill University, and he earned his PhD in comparative literature from the University of Chicago. The editor of Poetry from 1968-78, Hine was also a highly regarded translator of Classical writers such . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets


Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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