Saturday, March 12, 2005

When I was still an mfa student in New York, Charles Wright's "The World of the Ten Thousand Things" was, for a while, the text I looked to. Returning to it, though, I feel like something is wanting (not for all the poems, certainly: certain ones are still ravishing) overall. Maybe that which seemed mysterious is clear now, and cleared of the need for attention, it doesn't continue to draw it. Is that how it is with all familiarity? I don't think so. Though, maybe for overexposure (that is, it is not uncommon to read Wright ventriloquized, signed by whatever name. I've been guilty, for sure.).

But, picking up earlier Wright is a revelation. It is less mannered and more precise. Like Pound wanted, I suppose, poetry to be, each sound to mean something and also something else. And, what provided motion through Wright's later work is still the major concern, and not one of many. There are less looks for pats-on-the-back in these poems, too.

Check this poem out, from Hard Freight:


The Holston lolls like a tongue here, its banks
Gummy and ill at ease; across the state line,
Moccasin Gap declines in a leafy sneer.
Darkness, the old voyeur, moistens his chapped lips.

Unnoticed by you, of course, your mind
Elsewhere and groping: the stuck clasp, her knees,
The circle around the moon, O anything . . .
--Black boat you step from, the wet's slow sift.

Then Nothing, sleek fish, nuzzles the surface calm.
The fireflies drag and relight.
The wound is unwound, the flash is tipped on the fuse,
And on the long, long waters of What's Left.

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