Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1958
Dedication: In Memory of Donald A. Stauffer

Meredith is an expert writer and knows how to make his meters and sentences accomplish hard labors. His intelligent poems, unlike most poems, have a character behind them...

    -Robert Lowell

I think you write "I" poems, where the shifts, pauses, shivers etc. of the struggling voice are all important. You usually need a little space to get going, and perhaps some solid object bridge, battleship or person to keep you from drifting off into the gray. I guess your subject is about meetings: the ship, the bridge, ther persons steely, their myriad wires trembling with communication and rebuff, then giving one's self away with decency.

    -Letter from Robert Lowell to William Meredith, December 2, 1955


We say the sea is lonely; better say
Ourselves are lonesome creatures whom the sea
Gives neither yes or no for company.

Oh, there are people, all right, settled in the sea-
It is as populous as Maine today-
But no one who will give you the time of day.

A man who asks there of his family
Or a friend or teacher gets a cold reply
Or finds him dead against that vast majority.

They are speechless. And the famous noise of the sea,
Which a poet has beautifully told us in our day,
Is hardly a sound to speak comfort to the lonely.

Although not yet a man given to prayer, I pray
For each creature lost since the start of the sea,
And give thanks that it was not I, nor yet one close to me.

Reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.

Other poems from The Open Sea...

To Ships and Other Figures... | To The Wreck of the Thresher...