ABOUT Thomas Whitbread

Thomas Whitbread was born in 1931. He attended Amherst College (B.A., ‘52) and Harvard University (Ph.D., ‘59). Since 1959 he has taught English courses, chiefly in 20th Century Poetry and Creative Writing, at the University of Texas at Austin. His previous books of poetry are Four Infinitives (Harper & Row, 1964) and Whomp and Moonshiver (BOA Editions, 1982). The first book won, the second co-won, the annual Poetry Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. A short story, “The Rememberer,” won the third Aga Khan Award, given by The Paris Review, and was reprinted in Prize Stories 1962: The O. Henry Awards. His poems and stories have appeared in twenty anthologies and numerous journals, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Texas Observer, Shenandoah, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Borderlands and Poetry Northwest. He has long loved railroads, and still tries to count cars when he sees a train on VW vacation drives throughout the contiguous United States. His favorite places include western North Carolina, the Oregon coast, the Uncompahgre River valley of Colorado at Ridgway and Cape Cod.

Pecan Grove Press

The Structures Minds Erect
Thomas Whitbread


ISBN: 978-1-931247-24-5

“These are poems as we’d forgotten poems could be, intricately formed, tightly woven, reminiscent of Donne and Wilbur in naturalness and craft. Whitbread jitterbugs, jazzes, and slow dances in iambic pentameter, astonishes with wit and self-deprecating wisdom. His language strikes out and turns back on itself in curlicues of ambiguity. These virtuoso performances are clearly “ink spent in the paper’s love”; however, the love that most informs these pages is that of people in all their knotty imperfection. Of friends, he writes, “They give you the help and love you need to live.” Poems do the same, especially ones like these. What Whitbread says of Georgia O’Keeffe might well apply to his own work: ‘Art is love.’”
—Jeanne Emmons, poet

“Would that I were a line in a Whitbread poem! And were I, Unwary Reader, my Woo, I would sally through your house in skimp-and-pithy skirts (Better to flip than flip out). I would pursue you with my true-ness (Why could we not instead live unstupid lives). My rue would swoon you (The sorrow geysers up). My ruminations would woe you (We die). I would groan to you (I am gullet-tired/ Of inaccuracies). I would unfold to you (Yet one in a thousand lusts may turn to love). But above All Else I would be known to you (Our poems are our ends).”
—Jill Alexander Essbaum, poet

Plymouth, England, 1967

The rubbling of Plymouth by the Nazi blitz
Gave it unwanted opportunity
To build its central self anew. It did
Well, on an axis: broad Armada Way
The main vehicular street, Royal Parade
Crost it, chiefly for walkers to The Hoe
Up past the obelisk with grounded wings
Of stone carved with the heavy weight of name
Upon name upon unanonymous human name
Of thousands of local wartime dead—of all,
“These Men Were Honoured In Their Generations
And Were The Glory Of Their Times,” is said—
And to Sir Francis Drake, one hand fixed on
The globe, gaze flattening the far horizon.
Ruins remain, though, on the fringes of
The central city: one, a gutted church,
Deliberately kept as a reminder
Of what war does, of what that bombfall did.
Inside the standing gaunt remnants of walls
Sun and rain feed a carpet of green grass
As floor, rooted in which the baptismal font
Seems a solid, peaceful, and eternal mushroom.
Another ruined building, nondescript,
In its empty upper-story windows shows
Such haggardie of filth, skeins of cobwebbed
Limp handings, armings, fingerings, so like
Torn curtailed drapes, doing a silent Danse
Macabre to the touch of the dusk wind,
As to make me think it has been let to Death
As resident not in his happy guise
Of regeneration, but simply of decay,
Sped up in an instant’s terror then, of fire,
Since mouldering, gaping, gathering silent force
To be a horror in the heart of life.

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