January 29, 2009 / 5:48 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. writer John Updike pondered death in new poem

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. writer John Updike’s death made headlines this week, but in a poem due to be published later this year he mused about his “overdue demise” being received with “a shrug and tearless eyes.”

The three stanza poem, “Requiem,” will be published in Updike’s forthcoming collection “Endpoint” in September, said Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity at Alfred A. Knopf, a unit of Random House.

Updike, a leading writer of his generation who chronicled the drama of small-town American life with flowing and vivid prose, wit and a frank eye for sex, died on Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 76.

The poem reads:

It came to me the other day:

Were I to die, no one would say,

‘Oh, what a shame! So young, so full

Of promise - depths unplumbable!

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes

Will greet my overdue demise;

The wide response will be, I know,

‘I thought he died a while ago.’

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,

And death is real, and dark, and huge.

The shock of it will register

Nowhere but where it will occur.

Latimer said the publisher had received the collection, including “Requiem,” just a few weeks ago.

The prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning author died in a hospice in Massachusetts, the state where he lived for more than half a century.

Latimer said two more books by Updike will also be published this year — “My Father’s Tears and Other Stories” in June and “The Maple Stories” in August. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Alan Elsner)

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