Poems and sketches of E.B. White

by E. B. White

Hardcover, 1981




New York : Harper & Row, c1981.


All sorts of short pieces, including sketches, parodies, plus poems by this famous American writer.

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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
Perhaps best known for his children's classic, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, White was also a long time contributor to The New Yorker. This varied 1981 collection of short pieces from his long career was probably one of his last books. White died in 1985. It's a bit uneven of course, but there is plenty to
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enjoy here, and I've found much to reflect on and chuckle over as I sampled from it over the past several weeks. (Its short pieces make it a perfect book for the bathroom or maybe to tuck in the door pocket of your car.)

White tries to disavow himself as a poet, preferring 'non-poet' -

"The life of a non-poet is an agreeable one: he feels no obligation to mingle with other writers of verse to exchange sensitivities, no compulsion to visit the Y to read from his own works, no need to travel the wine-and-cheese circuit, where the word 'poet' carries the aroma of magic and ladies creep up from behind carrying ballpoint pens and sprigs of asphodel."

I must confess this cracked me up. But despite his protestations about his skill at poetry, here are a couple samples of his poems that brought me up short.

"This is what youth must figure out:
Girls, love and living.
The having, the not having,
The spending and giving,
And the melancholy time of not knowing.

This is what age must learn about:
The ABC of dying.
The going, yet not going,
The loving and leaving,
And the unbearable knowing and knowing."
("Youth and Age")

Or this one, from "Incident on a Campus," wherein he revisits his college town and watches the students walking by (something I like to do too) -

Strong and resolute and sad,
Firm and gay and brave and fair,
And it was more than I could bear
That none of them was I,
That not a one was I."

That probably could have also been called 'Youth and Age.' It sure gut-punched this old man.

But enough. This is a book packed chock full of vintage E.B. White, one of the last great practitioners of writing in this odd English language. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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