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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We are very sad to report that the poet John Hollander died Saturday in Brandford, Conn. He was 83.

Knopf had a long and rewarding association with John, and his distinguished volumes are a proud part of our poetry program. His final work, published in 2008, was A DRAFT OF LIGHT, from which the poem below is taken.

October 28, 1929 - August 17, 2013

Some Playthings

A trembling brown bird
standing in the high grass turns
out to be a blown

oakleaf after all.
Was the leaf playing bird, or
was it "just" the wind

playing with the leaf?
Was my very noticing
itself at play with

an irregular
frail patch of brown in the cold
April afternoon?

These questions that hang
motionless in the now-stilled
air: what of their

frailty, in the light
of even the most fragile
of problematic

substances like all
these momentary playthings
of recognition?

Questions that are asked
of questions: no less weighty
and lingeringly

dark than the riddles
posed by any apparent
bird or leaf or breath

of wind, instruments
probing what we feel we know
for some kind of truth.

Excerpt from A DRAFT OF LIGHT. Copyright © 2008 by John Hollander. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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