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Poetry Friday: "The Red Hat"

As the mother of an eight-year-old boy who's growing up quickly (don't they all?), I find Rachel Hadas's poem "The Red Hat" incredibly wistful and touching. It concerns a boy in Manhattan who starts walking to school by himself. Actually, it's about his parents, too.

...The watcher's heart
stretches, elastic in its love and fear,
toward him as we see him disappear,
striding briskly. Where two weeks ago,
holding a hand, he'd dawdle, dreamy, slow,
he now is hustled forward by the pull
of something far more powerful than school.

You can read the poem in its entirety in Hadas's collection Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems or in the excellent Oxford Book of American Poetry, edited by David Lehman. The copy of the poem that I found online is included with a college student's paper on the same, a legitimate way to post poetry and adhere to copyright restrictions, as best as I can figure. The poem originally ran in the January 16th, 1995, issue of The New Yorker. In an essay published by the literary journal Drunken Boat, Hadas talked about how she came up with the title. It's at the end of the piece, which mostly focuses on Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art."

The Poetry Friday roundup is at the blog A Year of Reading, which just celebrated its second anniversary. Congratulations, y'all!


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A bitter-sweet poem for a mom!

Oh, sigh...

Thank you for posting this poem, Susan. I've been thinking about it all morning (not coincidentally, while my own small son, only--already--seven, is at school). I also read Hadas's essay: I'm always looking for the click in my own (not blog-related) writing, although I usually think of it as the a-ha. Thanks again!

Oh... this one's really sweet -- not that I even have kids, but it's definitely a heartstrings twinger.

I knew I'd read this one! (I have the Oxford collection from Donald Hall.)

hi, everybody. I'm glad you liked this one. One of the reasons I mentioned Rachel Hadas's book is so that I would remember to check it out from the library. She has a new book of poetry published last year, too. Her husband has Alzheimer's or some other kind of memory-loss, and I believe that the new book deals with that.

I really like this poem, Susan. I was reading it at midnight and wanted to read the student's essay, too, when my daughter woke up, so I'm back again this morning.

Thanks for posting it and introducing me to someone new. The poem is really striking to me in what it conjures visually, and it's oh-so sad. But beautiful.

Okay, trying again. I don't think my first comment made it. Just thanking you for this, Susan. I'm re-reading it this morning, as I tried to last night but my daughter needed me (kind of fitting, no?). Anyway, it's beautiful and sad and conjures up very vivid visuals for the reader. I've not heard of her, so thank you.

Jules, you're welcome. I like Rachel Hadas's work, too. The poem is quite sad, isn't it?

I'll ask Typepad to look into the comments; they're behaving a bit quirkily lately.

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