2010: David Yezzi, “Competing Music”

Our friend is halfway through
a Beethoven sonata
on the first springlike day
of the year.  Outside, my daughter,
below an open window,
bounces a playground ball
to a red-haired boy her age.

At the first ping of rubber
on concrete, a guest at our party
jerks his head. And I wince
because I feel for him.
We’d all been so transported.)
A shame to have the ferocity
and amabilità broken briefly.

But perhaps it’s something said
for Beethoven, deaf and sick,
that his strong music can
admit her childish shocks,
mingle with her sounds and make them
even more alive
and irrepressibly dear.

My daughter doesn’t know
what harmonies we all heard
or how they mixed with hers,
as she played out
her game and the last notes
sailed off like sprinkler-mist
in the long, dry afternoon.

We applauded the union between
the piano’s tree-leaning ladders
of melody—rooted
earthward, narrowing skyward—
and, through dark doors
left open to catch the sun,
the peals of her high laughter.

Commissioned by the Ohio Eta Chaper of Phi Beta Kappa Poem, Ohio Wesleyan University on May 8, 2010

About David Yezzi

David Yezzi’s poetry collections include Azores (2008) and The Hidden Motel (2003), and his criticism and poetry have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Best American Poetry. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Yezzi is Executive Editor of The New Criterion. He has also edited The Swallow Anthology of New American Poetry (2009). His libretto for a chamber opera by composer David Conte, Firebird Motel, premiered in 2003 and was released on CD by Arsis (2007). Poet-critic Adam Kirsch, who selected Azores as one of Slate’s Best Books of 2008, noted that Yezzi’s poetry “displays a civilized mastery reminiscent of Philip Larkin and Donald Justice, which no poet of his generation can match.” David Yezzi is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University and received his MFA from Columbia University.

(Biography from The Poetry Foundation web site)