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Biographer: A Life

Fall 2008 - Vol. 50, No. 4

He sits amid the facts he's gathered in
From interviews, books, archives,
scattered prose
Mastered at last so recollection's pen
Can resurrect the dead by what he knows.

He minds the many pitfalls of his art,
Wary of biographers who err
In idolizing, tearing men apart,
Iconoclast or hagiographer.

He must engage, yet shuns the quick
With passion for those cool exactitudes
He isolates from hearsay, myths, and lies,
Tactful and tentative as he intrudes.

And when the work of long hard years is
As chapters of his life in holograph,
He'll rest with each dead man whose race
he's run,
Their hours enshrined in timeless epitaph.

David Middleton

[Author's Note: These verses remember Mark Royden Winchell both as a biographer and as areviewer of my book The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet(LSU Press, 2005).]