Viereck at full tide The most recent issue of Humanitas, the journal of the National Humanities Institute, contains work by and commentary on the work of Peter Viereck, professor emeritus of history and Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry. As an editorial postscript to Viereck's poem puts it, "In publishing Gate Talk for Brodsky, Humanitas opens its pages to what the author expects will be his last major poem. A meditation on life and death and the ultimate things, the poem integrates themes of the author's writing in the last six decades." The multi-part poem is accompanied by a lengthy interpretative article placing this poem in the context of Viereck's earlier work.
In "Peter Viereck: Reconciliation and Beyond," Purdue University political science professor Michael A. Weinstein called Viereck's series of long dialogical poems "major contributions to contemporary civilization." Weinstein says that Viereck "culminates his life's thought with 'gate talk,' an act of 'thread gathering' that pulls together the diverse, yet not contradictory, themes that he has developed and theses that he has expounded for nearly sixty years as a political philosopher ... a major American poet, and a poetry critic ..."
Characters throughout Viereck's work, Weinstein writes, deal with the "same predicament of striving to love the earth under the shadow of death." He describes Gate Talk as "summing up Viereck's life of thought and putting each part in its place under the goal of 'reinventing not death but dying.' 'Gate Talk for Brodsky' is a Phaedo for modern times, not philosophy as a preparation for death, but poetry as 'My no to nothingness. My futile no.'"
Viereck introduces his poem this way: "While trying at age eighty-one to survive my own recent heart attacks, I'm writing these rhythm-variations of dying for Joseph Brodsky (for, not about, not to), who died of a heart attack January 28, 1996." This long poem is part of Viereck's unpublished new poetry book My Western Gate. Also from that book is a new poem about John Wilkes Booth in the current (March) issue of the Boston University magazine Agni.
His most recent book, Tide, (University of Arkansas Press, 1995), is available at the MHC bookstore and at the Odyssey Bookshop. Viereck donates to his Clio-Melpomene Prize for MHC seniors all royalties he gets from this and other books.