The Care and Feeding of William Faulkner (Poem)

The Care and Feeding of William Faulkner           

William Faulkner visits Iceland in the early 50’s.

Faulkner’s coming

Here, to Iceland

We’re to show him a good time

But, not too good

In Japan, he misbehaved badly

Drunk, on hard stuff

We should serve him beer

Just, not too much

Keep a constant careful eye on him

Slightly, on his glass

“Doesn’t anyone here drink hard liquor?”


William, William

Meet our guests:

Don’t you want to meet the famous authors of Iceland?

Here’s one, they think he’ll win the Nobel Prize, like you.

Bring it back to their ice and snow and buried boiling waters

Like you did to your sun and heat and gentle warm springs.


Too bad you won’t say much—at least you don’t talk about yourself.


The State Department sent you to Iceland

To convince them that we, that is, we Americans,

Are worth knowing, worth having around.

Your job is to show them our culture; and you can do that by just

Being there, by sharing your high and nobel presence.


You see, we write, too; and read.

True, we have to keep watch on our culture.

It drinks, you know, bourbon on the rocks in a tall glass.

And gets wobbly, and we have to send cablegrams

Addressed to the one Southerner in all of Iceland,

Explaining the care and feeding of our culture.

Since sometimes it cannot stand on its own.

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