On Keith Waldrop.
Keith Waldrop is a quiet major poet, a major poet of quiet. His accomplishment is difficult to describe because his work refuses, in Bartleby-like fashion, the twin traps of impassivity and affectation: “On my one hand, / stasis – on the / other, striving for effect.” In one of his very few interviews, Waldrop says: “I think the worst fault a poem can have is striving for effect.” Waldrop never strives; instead, he haunts—his presence is all the more powerful for barely being there, like a ghost you discover in a familiar photograph. There are plenty of direct statements, moments of humor and pathos, but we come to know Waldrop most through his subtle, exquisite compositional decisions: the way he breaks a line or collages found language. I think here of the perfectly balanced epigrammatic poem “Proposition II”:
Each grain of sand has its architecture, but
a desert displays the structure of the wind.