Poem of the week: Harvard Yard

A new poem by Harry Clifton


My age was over and my generation gone
Czeslaw Milosz

How lonely a place
It feels already, Harvard Yard
Since the eighties . . . Adams House

Where Heaney roomed, when Bishop
Threw in the towel
Like Paz, like Robert Lowell –

Not to mention Dexter Gate
Enter and grow wise
Where Walcott, Brodsky, dollar-bait,

Milosz, down from Grizzly Peak,
Half of Europe behind him
Trying to speak,

Have handed back their postern key
To the lost, the liberal space
Of the eighteenth century.

Stock unsold on Grolier shelves –
And the Widener, the Lamont,
High culture, sacrosanct,

As the shamed democracies
Die from the top, like trees
Transplanted here, in the sandy Yard

Of Harvard, taking root
Too shallowly, in girls, semesters,
Privilege, to bear fruit.

Harry Clifton’s latest collection is ‘Portobello Sonnets’ ( Bloodaxe )