“The Ambassador Diaries of Jean de Bosschère and Edgar Poe” has three sections, the first and third containing twelve stanzas each, the second containing five. Each stanza consists of six free-verse lines. Although Norman Dubie’s title refers to Edgar Allan Poe and poet Jean de Bosschère, the poem is about Conrad Aiken (1889-1973). From childhood on, Aiken loved Poe’s work, and he admired the poetry of Bosschère. Like these poets, Aiken was an orphan. The word “ambassador” comes from one of the passages in Aiken’s poem “Time in the Rock,” parts of which Dubie used as epigraphs in this poem, and Aiken referred to his Preludes for Memmon (1931) as a “spiritual diary.”
In section 1, Dubie addresses Aiken and then narrates an anecdote based on Aiken’s poem “And in the Hanging Gardens,” whose characters—a king, a princess, and a knave—were derived from Aiken and his parents. Dubie combines the king and the knave in a single figure and provides a historical name, King Henry VIII. The young king has thrown his drinking cup from a window of his castle and goes out in the rain, cursing it and his mother, to find it. When he does, he lies down at the edge of a meadow to sleep, but servants are coming to return him to his mother, who waits with dry linens. Dubie says that the king’s quest reflects a desire to be down in the muddy fields, dreaming of a castle in the air. Referring to Aiken’s fear of inheriting his father’s insanity, Dubie asks if his king is sane....
(The entire section is 620 words.)