Richard Wilbur was invested as Poet Laureate of the United States in September 1987. This volume includes, in their entirety, the six earlier volumes of the author's poetry and in addition, 27 new poems and a cantata. Excluding only his verse translations of the plays of Moliere and Racine and his lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's score the musical "Candide", this new volume represents his lifetime work, thus far, in poetry and spans four decades from 1947 to 1987.
These collected poems of the Poet Laureate of the United States are, despite the prevailing view of modern poetry, a monument to the accessible and the beautiful. The language is lush, full "of heat and juice and heavy jammed excess," and deeply thoughtful. His concern for careful human stewardship of nature extends also to the artist's creative struggle to capture the truth of the world. One poignant poem, "The Writer," addresses this through his reaction to listening outside the door as his daughter earnestly struggles to compose a story on her typewriter: "It is always a matter, my darling/Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish/ What I wished you before, but harder." The collection won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1989.