Happy Birthday Paul Engle

Poet, teacher, critic and best known for leading and promoting the Iowa Writers Workshop.  Kurt Vonnegut, a member of the workshop, described Engle as follows:

“The former head, Paul Engle, is still around, is a hayseed clown, a foxy grandpa, a terrific promoter, who, if you listen closely, talks like a man with a paper asshole.”

I’m not really sure if this is meant to be complimentary, critical or a bit of both.  In any case I really like this poem.


Twenty Below: by Paul Engle


Twenty below, I said, and closed the door,
a drop of five degrees and going down.
It makes a tautened drum-hide of the floor,
brittle as leaves each building in the town.
I wonder what would happen to us here
if that hard wind of winter never stopped,
no man again could watch the night grow clear,
the blue thermometer forever dropped.

I hope, you answered, for so cruel a storm
to freeze remoteness from our lives too cold.
Then we could learn, huddled all close, how warm
the hearts of men who live alone too much,
and once, before our death, admit the old
need of a human nearness, need of touch.