“The Irish hire keeners, the English mutes.
Some hobbyists will bronze the loved one’s boots.
“Revival theaters devote entire weeks
To proofs that Elvis Lives and Garbo Speaks.
“Vikings consign their chieftains to the waves,
And Amy Clampitt visits famous graves.
“Sorrowing bees return to ruined hives,
And Hindus burn their neighbors’ grieving wives.
“A dog will mourn his master like a serf
By pissing on the dear departed’s turf.
“Some weep in silence, others cry out loud,
And Susan Cheever sells her father’s shroud.”
No one today writes with Disch’s cant-free, Swiftian precision. In 1995, he collected some of his reviews in The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters. In “Death and the Poet,” a subject he returns to obsessively, he writes:
“Poetry, like so much else that is beautiful, is ephemeral. A butterfly, a nightingale, a sip of wine. It slips away, the particular joining the general. How many marvelously apt haikus have been written—and lost before the sun came up? Several million at least. Any poet must be prepared to see his work arise and vanish in the same morning mists.”