|John Updike (Photo by Brigitte Lacombe)|
It has sixteen unmodified nouns (intelligence, help, bindweed, wand, grass, tree, earth, trick, lilacs, forethought, root, motion, treachery, death, plotter, twist), four modified nouns (flourishing dependent, lilac leaves, avidest clippers, climbing tight spiral), and seventeen verbs and gerunds (is, doesn’t, know, begins, climbs, bend, has, entwining, boost, manages, imitate, lose, spy, clip, unwind, feels, mirrors). Looking at “Bindweed,” I don’t see the formula that Chiasson speaks of. In fact, I would go so far as to say that transformation is not what Updike was trying to achieve in his poetry. Descriptive accuracy was his aim. Clive James, in his excellent "Final Act" (The New York Times Sunday Book Review, April 28, 2009), a review of Updike’s Endpoint and Other Poems, says, “But from the thematic angle there is a strict discipline in operation. Every recollection has to be specific.” Chiasson makes this point, too, I think, when he says, in his piece, that he remembers reading the “Endpoint” poems in The New Yorker and “marveling at their authenticity.” By “authenticity” I think he means realness – the thing itself. That’s the quality in Updike’s poetry that I treasure.