Stanley Moss, Poet Who Evoked a Troubled World, Dies at 99

Stanley Moss, Poet Who Evoked a Troubled World, Dies at 99

“When I started selling art, I had no money or training,” he told Dylan Foley in 2005 for a blog called The Last Bohemians. “I have a gift for finding old masters. I have discovered pictures that now hang in the Louvre that I bought for nothing. It takes taste and brains.

“How do I balance my careers as a poet and a dealer? I have the advantage of not having to sleep much.”

Mr. Moss was not nationally known. But he won thousands of devoted fans with what critics called exquisite, moving and often painful free-verse observations on the natural world, friends’ deaths, the Holocaust and other topics. Many of his books were translated into German, Spanish, Italian or Chinese, and readers were drawn to his confrontations with a God he deemed oblivious of mankind. In “Winter Flowers,” from “Almost Complete Poems” (2016), he wrote:

Once my friends and I went out in deep paradise snow
With Saint Bernards and Great Pyrenees
To find those lost in the blizzard that God made for Himself
Because He prefers not seeing what happens on earth.

Moss may or may not be accurately termed a religious poet,” the British poet Carol Rumens wrote in The Guardian in 2015. “If he’s a religious poet, he’s one of the too-few irreligious kind, firmly of this world in his vivid pleasures and sorrows, joyfully harrying God from myth to unsatisfactory myth, denomination to denomination, fascinated by the whole subject of deity but hardly expecting a catch or kill.”

In “A History of Color: New and Collected Poems” (2003), which covered four decades of his work in settings including Beijing, New York, ancient Greece, modern Italy and the Jerusalem of Arabs and Jews, Mr. Moss posed challenges to God in response to the deadly terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In his poem “Creed,” included in that collection, he wrote:

I do not believe the spirits of the dead
Are closer to God than the living,
Nor do I take to my heart
The Christlike word ubuntu
That teaches reconciliation
Of murderers, torturers, accomplices,
With victims still living.

“In a sense Moss has been writing the same poem for more than 40 years — elliptical meditations that take the self as a starting point of intellectual autobiography,” J.T. Barbarese wrote in his review of that book in The New York Times. “Moss is constantly talking to the past. Yet the most repeated word in these 250 pages is God, and the fact that Moss’s God is the God of the dis- or the unbeliever suggests that the best religious poetry still comes out of longing rather than conviction.”

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