The Writer Poem by Richard Wilbur Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “The Writer” was written by the poet Richard Wilbur. The poem first appeared in Richard Wilbur’s collection named “The Mind Reader” in 1976. The poem depicts a wonderful emotion of a father looking at his daughter as a writer.

About the Poet:

Richard Wilbur was an American poet and translator. He was born in 1921. He was the second poet laureate of the United States. Richard won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his collection “Things of This World: Poems” in (1957) and a second Pulitzer for “New and Collected Poems” in (1988). 


The poem “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur is an eleven stanza poem. Each stanza contains three lines. It is called tercets. The poet has written this poem in the form of free verse.

Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1:

Lines 1-3:

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

The first stanza of the poem describes the father’s description about his daughter. The speaker’s daughter is trying to write a story. Being a poet himself the speaker knows the difficulties a new writer faces when it comes to putting the thoughts into words. So, he says that his daughter is inside her home. Here, the speaker compares the “home” to a “ship”. Inside the room, the daughter is trying to write, while the light is breaking into her room.

Lines 4-6:

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

In the second stanza, the speaker says, while passing his daughter’s room he could hear the sounds of typewriting keys. The sounds are described as the commotion of keys by the speaker. The sound is also compared to a chain hauled over a gunwale. The writing is like pulling a large chain to the side of the ship.

Lines 7-9

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.

In the third stanza, the speaker is comparing his daughter’s life to a great cargo. It might feel heavy but it can help the daughter to male progress in the writing field. Now, the speaker is wishing her daughter good luck.Even while wishing he is continuing the extended metaphor, and wishes his daughter to have a good journey.

Lines 10 – 12:

But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

In the fourth stanza, the readers get to know that the daughter has stopped writing as she is struggling with words. The speaker could sense this difficulty while the sounds of the typewriting keys stop.

Lines 13-15:

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.

In the fifth line, the speaker feels that the small halt taken by his daughter had made the whole house to think. After sometime she starts typing. But again the room fell into silence.

Lines 16-18:

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

In this stanza the speaker is comparing his daughter to a bird. The speaker says that similar to a bird that got trapped in that same room two years ago, the daughter is trapped with her words.

Lines 19-24:

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

In this stanza, the speaker is describing how the bird that got trapped in the room struggled two years back. The bird neay for an hour trying to find an open window to escape from the place. It struggled alone. Similarly, now the daughter is struggling alone to proceed with her writing.

Lines 25-30:

And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.

In these stanza the speaker says that the starling without giving up tried again and again. They were watching the bird lift again from the floor with a spirit to find the open window. It succeeded in the end. Similarly, the speaker feels that his daughter can also make progress in writing.

Lines 31-33:

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish

What I wished you before, but harder

In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker tells his daughter that writing is a matter of life or death. Though he had forgotten his early period of writing, now he could feel the emotion that his daughter is going through. But, as a father and as a writer, he is wishing his daughter good luck in her writing career.