Coffee Talks with Conrad Hilberry

One of the world’s best, W.S. Merwin, an important poet, translator, and environmentalist, passed away this week at 91. That’s almost 70 years of work devoted to the good. When he received the Pulitzer Prize, the war in Vietnam was raging. He wrote this in The New York Review of Books:

“I am pleased to know of the judges’ regard for my work, and I want to thank them for their wish to make their opinion public. But after years of the news… and commentary from Washington, I am too conscious of being an American to accept public congratulation with good grace, or to welcome it except as an occasion for expressing openly a shame which many Americans feel, day after day, helplessly, and in silence.”

I guess I don’t need to say how much I wish I lived in a culture that valued Merwin, his life, and his life’s work.

And speaking of peace-filled poets whose work matters…


Coffee Talks With Conrad Hilberry

He brought out the robust flavor
of everything, brewed us lines perked

for sipping, savoring— images
espresso intense, carried latte light

across rhythms energetic as caffeine.
We pour these poems dark, rich,

some with cream, none with a sugar cube,
but each accompanied by the real sweetness

of a buttery croissant, one dipped
into the full body of a fine French roast.

for Jane Hilberry

–Jack Ridl

First published in Peninsula Poets
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

The Gala for the Goldfinch is racking up RSVPs. We have a few more seats. Grab yours here:

Jeff Gundy has a new collection: Without a Plea (Bottom Dog Press) Here’s what Lynn Powell says, “. . . in poem after adventurous poem [Jeff Gundy reveals that ‘the world is full/ of little possibilities for love.'”

Workshop on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, MI
Jack will lead this workshop, sharing approaches to Writing Personal History at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan. Time 10-1:30. Contact the church to sign up.

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

14 thoughts on “Coffee Talks with Conrad Hilberry

  1. Always loved Conrad’s work. I felt he and John Woods were/are so underappreciated in many ways. They both, along with Merwin, have a secure place in my heart.

  2. I love this poem! It is a wonderful tribute to a remarkable poet and one of the finest individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting.

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thank you sooooo much.
      I spent a long time trying to figure out how to respect
      such a great good man. He took me in back in the early 70s and
      kept me going. He and Miriam “adopted” our daughter who was the
      same age as Katherine, a very moving part of our lives.

    • I’m very grateful for this, Jill. I worried and worried over that poem because
      Con meant so much to so many. Who am I to write a tribute to him in of all things
      a poem when he was a master and touched so so many of us.

  3. Jack, you did it again, enrich our lives with a wondeful poem!

    Coffee and Croissants are ready here in Tübingen, Germany any time. Just gimme a shout and I’ll ask Hölderlin to join us at the Coffee table.

  4. Jack, you did it again, enrich our lives with a wonderful poem!

    Coffee and Croissants are ready here in Tübingen, Germany any time. Just gimme a shout and I’ll ask Hölderlin to join us at the Coffee table.

    • Oh yes. Thanks so much for your loving response to that poem.
      Con was a wonderful wonderful man. You would have thought the world of him.

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