Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study

Let us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study
Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017

The recent death of Richard Wilbur has given us occasion to look back at his long and remarkable career, spanning seven decades and including ten volumes of poetry and fifteen translations of French plays, and Robert and Mary Baggs’ critical biography, the first of Wilbur, proves to be a timely aid to our retrospect. The book takes its title from an early review of The Beautiful Changes, his first book, published in 1947; the reviewer, Louise Bogan, was laudatory, admiring, and hopeful for a promising future: “Let us watch Richard Wilbur. He is composed of valid ingredients.” The biography, too, is composed of valid ingredients: the Baggs had exclusive access to Wilbur’s personal correspondences, journals, and family archives, and they draw upon a decade’s worth of interviews they conducted with Wilbur and his wife Charlee. The generous allotment of such ingredients is the most valuable component of the biography.