Philip Levine Reads Philip Larkin

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25 years ago this coming Saturday, I saw at the Belmont race track the greatest race I've ever seen. Maybe I think it was the greatest because I had bet on Affirmed to win the Triple Crown and that day he did in a neck by neck, nose to nose race with Alidar.

In the 25 years that passed, no other horse has done it. And this year Funny Cide, a New York bred gelding, has a chance to become the first triple crown winner in 25 years (and the only gelding and the only New York bred horse to do it.) It is important to know that a gelding is a male horse without his testicles...

For the occasion I'd like to read the loveliest poem I know about horse racing by the British poet Philip Larkin. It's called "At Grass." It is an expression "at grass" which means that a horse has been retired from racing and is allowed to just amble about a prairie or a meadow for the rest of his life.

At Grass

The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and main;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
- The other seeming to look on -

And stands anonymous again
Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps
Two dozen distances surficed
To fable them: faint afternoons
Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,
Whereby their names were artificed
To inlay faded, classic Junes -

Silks at the start: against the sky
Numbers and parasols: outside,
Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,
And littered grass : then the long cry
Hanging unhushed till it subside
To stop-press columns on the street.

Do memories plague their ears like flies?
They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows.
Summer by summer all stole away,
The starting-gates, the crowd and cries -
All but the unmolesting meadows.
Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,
Or gallop for what must be joy,
And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies:
Only the grooms, and the grooms boy,
With bridles in the evening come.

-Philip Larkin

Levine: I hope this sat that Funny Cide does it. It would be wonderful to see a horse owned by ten rather middle class New York gentlemen win this race which is usually won by horses owned by the Rockefellers or some other extraordinarily wealthy family.


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Poetry Links
William Matthews LINKS

Mingus at the Half Note is in a WIlliams' Collection, Time & Money: New Poems (1995)

Read an interview with Matthews from the Atlantic Monthly
It was the last interview conducted with him before his sudden death (of a heart attack,) on November 12, 1997, the day after his fifty-fifth birthday, at his home in New York City.

The Alun Lewis Page
For information on Alun Lewis
War Poetry
Alun Lewis' War Poems
Alfred A Knopf on Philip Levine
Information on many of Levine's books
Galway Kinnell Reads Walt Whitman
Kinnell reads Whitman's "To The States" and comments on it
Philip Levine on the Internet Poetry Archive.
Read Levine's poetry and listen to Levine read his poetry
The Leonard Lopate Show: Poetry Magazine
Hear Mr. Lopate talk about the 100 million-dollar donation from Ruth Lilly to Poetry Magazine
The Next Big Thing: Poetry Lives
Alice Quinn, poetry editor for the New Yorker and executive director of the Poetry Society of America, sorts through some entries to the Poetry in Motion Contest
e-poets Network Book of Voices
a list of poets and poems from the Chicago area-- you can listen to poets read their work
The Poetry Project
is at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, since 1966
A collection of books online, including a bounty of verse
An Audible Anthology
A collection of poems printed in the Atlantic Montly to read or listen to
Gumball Poetry
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A selection of Philip Levine's books

A New Selected Poems
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The Simple Truth
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The Mercy
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What Work Is: Poems
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