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Posts Tagged ‘Issue 26’

I Have Wasted My Life

June 23, 2015 | by


Niels Frederik Schiøttz-Jensen, An Afternoon’s Rest, 1885

The narrator of “Yancey,” Ann Beattie’s story in our new Summer issue, is an aging poet; she tells of her encounter with an IRS agent who shows up to audit her. Toward the end, she recites a poem to him—James Wright’s famous “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”:

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,

Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses

Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

As it turns out, that poem first appeared in The Paris Review; it was published some fifty-four years ago alongside his “How My Fever Left” in our Summer-Fall 1961 issue. Since then, that last line has inspired reams of analysis and debate—is it a lament? Is it a joke, a kind of boast? Did Wright intend to undercut or to bolster his pastoral scene with it? Could it be a winking response to Rilke, whose “Archaic Torso of Apollo” concludes with the imperative “You must change your life”? Beattie’s IRS agent isn’t sure what to make of it: Read More »

Dayley Island

March 11, 2014 | by

On April 8th, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking back at the work Seidel has published in The Paris Review throughout his career.


Photo: Christoph Michels

Dayley Island” is the first poem Frederick Seidel published in The Paris Review—it appeared in our twenty-sixth issue, from Summer/Fall 1961, alongside work by Norman Mailer, Thom Gunn, Malcolm Lowry, and Tom Keogh, among many others; there were also interviews with Ilya Ehrenburg and Marianne Moore. (“I have a passion for rhythm and accent, so blundered into versifying.”)

In the sumptuousness of a line like “My slippers / exhale lamé,” “Dayley Island” bears the traces of what would become, to me, a Seidel hallmark: a certain brand of knowing, luxurious weariness. The poem also makes elegant use of one of my all-time favorite verbs, the arrantly unpoetic “winterize.”

But what’s it about, you ask? Well, far be it for me to say. But a brief round of Googling did reveal this amusingly compact summary, from a 1963 edition of The Virginia Quarterly Review: “In ‘Dayley Island’ the slaughter of rabbits on a Maine coastal island becomes associated in the mind of an aging refugee woman psychiatrist with the extermination of her family by Nazi hands.” Sounds like something to add to your Netflix queue. The VQR also notes, approvingly, that “some readers may feel … their decorum outraged” by Seidel’s poems.


Gulls spiral high above
The porch tiles and my gulf-green,
Cliff-hanging lawn, with their
Out-of-breath wail, as
Dawn catches the silver ball
Set in the dried up bird bath
To scare the gulls. My slippers
Exhale lamé.

I was egged on by old age—
To sell that house,
Winterize this house,
Give up my practice...

Read the whole poem here, and buy your ticket to the Revel here.