AS TO A FRONTISPIECE If you will choose the portrait, I will write the work accordingly. A German countenance I could dilate on lengthily, Punctilio and passion blending To that slow national degree. Or, if you wish more brevity And have the face in mind -- A tidy creature, perhaps American -- I could provide a facile text, The portrait being like enough To stand for anyone. But if you can't make up your mind What poetry should look like, What name to call for, I think I have the very thing If you can read without a picture And postpone the frontispiece till later. That is, as you may guess, I have a work but, I regret, No preliminary portrait. Yet, if you can forgo one, We may between us illustrate This subsequent identity.
I keep the lovely Persea Books edition of Riding's Poems on a shelf near my desk. I've never made a systematic go at it, but I take it down regularly & read a couple of poems. I identify with Riding's reticence. And her subtle, subversive irony: