On March 31st of 1959 W. F. Loehwing, Dean of the Graduate College of the University of Iowa, wrote to me at Storrs, Connecticut, where I was teaching as a graduate assistant at UConn, my Alma Mater, to tell me that I had been awarded a Graduate Fellowship in the Writers’ Workshop for the academic year 1959-60. I was happy to accept the offer, but a few days later, on April 4th, Paul Engle wrote to offer me a teaching assistantship instead of the Fellowship. He also asked me to submit poems for consideration in an Iowa publication that would turn out to be the Random House anthology Midland: Twenty-Five Years of Fiction and Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
A few days later I wrote back saying I'd rather not teach as I wanted to get my degree as quickly as possible. Paul replied, telling me about the differences between the English M. A. and the M. F. A., which took longer. I decided on the M. A., as I still had a year to go on the G. I. Bill and would be able to transfer my six UConn graduate English credits to Iowa, thus in effect finishing my class work at Iowa in a year.
Although it was against the rules, apparently, to give a graduate fellow an assistantship as well, when I arrived at Iowa Paul made me his Editorial Assistant; as such, I would assist him with Midland and other projects, including another anthology, the Hallmark Poetry for Pleasure, which was to be published by Doubleday.
On April 8th Elizabeth Ames wrote to inform me that I was invited to reside at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N. Y., from 6 July to September 6th. I wrote to tell her I would be able to attend only until August 6th because I had decided to enter Iowa. This is a photograph of the group who assembled at Yaddo during August of 1959:
Front Row, Sitting, L --> R: Ilse Lind, Gerald Weales, Lewis Turco, Hope Hale Davis, Douglas Allanbrook, Ilse Getz, Buffie Johnson, Manoucher Yektai.
Back Row, L --> R: Harold Lewis, Gordon Binkerd, Reuel Denney, Howard Rogovin, Hyde Solomon, Helen Puner, John Day, Lee Hoiby, Robert Gorham Davis, Gerald Sykes, Roger Crossgrove, Ramon Guthrie, Robert Phelps.
Although my stay at Yaddo was truncated because I had to report to the Iowa Workshop and move there from Storrs with my wife before the term began, I had an extremely productive residence. It was there during the summer of 1959 that I began writing poems in unrhymed quantitative syllabic prosody rather than in traditional accentual-syllabics:
Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, 1959
This is the place where peace grows
like a green frond set among waters aerial
with dragonflies. Where, at noon,
the trees section the broad falling
leaf of light, and space color upon the millpond,
yet do not move because motion
might be lost upon silence.
This is the place where a stone,
given its occasional career, could disturb
little with an arc and fall,
for the pond would swallow all voice
and shrug circling ripples into its banks until
moss had absorbed this small wet gift,
showing a fancy darker.
This is the place where one may
abet his heart's romance, deceiving his eyes by
slow change with no change. But even
here, dream makes way for declensions of wind and sun.
The alders will grow, moss will dry.
Wings will pulsate, then plummet.
This is the place where peace rests
like ferns beyond lilies. The trick is to wear it
as a mantle, but to know
cloaks for cloaks, shelters for shelters.
Beneath this revery of surfaces, fish wait
for the dragonfly's mistake. The
trick is to lose, but to own.
“Millpond” appeared the following year in The Minnesota Review, and in 1981 it was published as a broadside by Buffalo Prints and Paper (Frank C. Eckmair) in a Limited edition of under 20 copies. The poem was paired with "Dark Light," an intaglio by George O'Connell, in
with a subsequent tour of the State, first to New York City, the Pratt Manhattan Center Gallery, December 18, 1982-January 15, 1983. The exhibit was reprised in Albany at the SUNY Central Offices, 14 October 1994. A copy of the poem in calligraphy by Jean Garvey, was grouped with four prints by George O'Connell and placed on permanent exhibition in 1982 as The Jeffrey Sisson Memorial Exhibit at the Aurelia Osburn Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, New York.
“Millpond” has been collected in Fearful Pleasures: The Complete Poems of Lewis Turco 1959-2007: