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Linda Pastan's "A New Poet"

Updated on September 29, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Linda Pastan


Reading of Pastan's "A New Poet"


Pastan's poem dramatizes the excitement and enthusiasm of discovering the work of a poet, with whom the speaker had formerly remained unacquainted.

Linda Pastan's poem, "A New Poet," consists of six unrimed tercets, many of which connect with one another giving the poem a streaming flow of the enthusiasm that informs the speaker's delivery.

First Tercet: "Finding a new poet"
The speaker begins quite simply with an unadorned simile: "Finding a new poet / is like finding a new wildflower / out in the woods." Most readers can identify with the situation of walking in the woods, enjoying the clean green foliage, the fresh air, and no doubt the bird songs, and then suddenly there it is, a lovely colorful little flower that heretofore had remained out of one's experience.

The speaker likens finding a new poet to that surprising and pleasant incident. After remaining unaware and unacquainted with the new poet, the excitement captures the imagination and interest of the reader with the same joy that arises from seeing that new flower for the first time.

Second Tercet: "its name in the flower books, and"
The speaker then declares that she cannot find the name of the flower in the usual botanical books, which signals that the "new poet" is not well known and therefore his/her work has not appeared in many journals.

The new poet is not only new to the speaker, but he or she is also new to publishing. Since the new poet is, indeed, so new, that the speaker's friends are not so taken with the new poet's works. Those friends or acquaintances do not "believe[ ] / in its odd color." They do not yet see why the speaker feels so enthusiastic about her new discovery.

Third Tercet: "its leaves grow in splayed rows"
Those skeptical friends do not become enthused about this new poet, whose poems "grow in splayed rows / down the whole length of the page." The new poet's work looks unusual to the others, but to the speaker they bring forth much interest. The new poet's work brings back to the speaker her own experiences: "the very page smells of spilled / / red wine."

Fourth Tercet: "red wine and the mustiness of the sea"
The speaker enjoys the memories the new poet's work causes to arise, those memories of not only "red wine" but also "the mustiness of the sea / on a foggy day - the odor of truth / and of lying." The speaker has delved into the new poet's work enough to realize the valuable experiences that new work is capable of retrieving for her.

Fifth Tercet: "And the words are so familiar"
In the fifth tercet, the speaker has almost left behind the flower as she claims that the "words are so familiar, / so strangely new." The new poem strikes a chord with speaker as they recall her experiences in an odd fresh way.

The words make the speaker's memories flood her mind and mood in such exciting novel ways that the familiar and unfamiliar seem to blend into one rush of joy. They are so familiar that it seems the speaker herself could have written them.

Sixth Tercet: "in your dreams there had been a pencil"
The speaker surmises that if she had had a pencil or pen in her dreams she might have written that poem herself.

Or if she had had a paintbrush, she might have painted the flower, if it had popped out of the ground of her dreaming sleep.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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