John Updike’s first collection of verse since Midpoint takes its title from a poem about insomnia. Throughout, this is poetry with its eyes wide open, restlessly alert for the oddities of reality and the double entendres of imagination. Fanciers of light verse will find a middle section of delicate fossil prints left by this vanished form; readers of Mr. Updike’s fiction will recognize some of the landscapes and preoccupations. In three long poems he, in turn, remembers a boyhood Sunday in Pennsylvania, addresses aspects of a Harvard education, and contemplates, with a Dionysian verve, the aesthetic challenge posed by the new sexual candor (“We must assimilate cunts to our creed of beauty”). Shorter poems treat of spring and flying, of gold and the Caribbean, of sand dollars and bicycle chains, of the shades of bliss and variety of phenomena accessible to a man past the midpoint of his life, trying to pace himself as he heads toward Nandi.
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.