This week’s New Favorite Poet is: W. G. Sebald

This week’s new favorite poet got my attention in the 10/11/11 issue of The New Yorker with his poem

“October Heat Wave”

From the flyover
that leads down
to the Holland
Tunnel I saw
the red disc
of the sun
rising over the
promised city.

By the early
afternoon the
reached eighty-
five & a steel
blue haze
hung about the
shimmering towers

whilst at the White
House Conference
on Climate the
President listened
to experts talking
about converting
green algae into
clean fuel & I lay

in my darkened
hotel room near
Gramercy Park
dreaming through
the roar of Manhattan
of a great river
rushing into
a cataract.

In the evening
at a reception
I stood by an open
French window
& pitied the
crippled tree
that grew in a
tub in the yard.

Practically defo-
liated it was
of an uncertain
species, its trunk
& its branches
wound round with
strings of tiny
electric bulbs.

A young woman
came up to me
& said that al-
though on vacation
she had spent
all day at
the office
which unlike

her apartment was
air-conditioned &
as cold as the
morgue. There,
she said, I am
happy like an
opened up oyster
on a bed of ice.

It’s quite beautiful and completely captures the possibilities and images that one might be presented with in the middle of the cloying temperatures that an urban heat wave can provide. Lines like “the red disc of the sun” and “a steel blue haze hung about the shimmering towers” describe eloquently yet jarringly the subject of the piece. W. G. Sebald has done with October Heat Wave what all we writers do (or wish to do); observe with intense dissection, then transmute the observations into crystalline, effective verse.

His Wikipedia entry can be found by clicking here, in case you, like me, would like to know more about him.




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