Favorite poems: The Red Portrait

Karl Kirchwey’s The Red Portrait appeared in the March issue of Poetry and immediately became a favorite for me. The sonnet is about a dream in which the writer’s deceased mother returns to him and he feels  the urgent need to catch her up on all that has happened in his life since she died. It’s very moving.

The mother is wearing a red dress and red lipstick, which prompts this parenthetical line: “I wonder if that means she lives in hell.” The poem becomes more urgent as it goes, with the author wanting his mother to see his family and know about his life’s work. He ends with “But she smiled at me and began to fade.”

In the magazine, the poem is accompanied by a Q&A with the author, who I have not read before. He talks about the origins of the poem and says it is modeled on Milton’s “Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint.”

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~ by ericedits on April 26, 2008.

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