Like anyone else who loves reading and writing, I am infinitely nosey–curious about the lives of poets and writers. I always read their acknowledgements; their dedications. I want to know who they are thanking–who brought salsa, beer and chips…who diapered and fed the kids; who was always there for them…who did the typing; who read and re-read pages late at night; who let them use a summer cottage; do they mention their parents? With Google at my fingertips, I’m a practiced stalker; I can drill down through the layers of anyone’s life.
Years ago, I read this James Wright poem–it took my breath away…
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Immediately, I wanted more…more poems, more details about this humble mid-western man who knew, “the ache and sorrow of darkened earth.” I discovered The Delicacy and Strength of Lace–a collection of his letters to Leslie Marmon Silko and her replies. It is the poignant story of their friendship that tells everything about who James Wright was. A Wild Perfection is a comprehensive collection of his letters to Donald Hall, Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Galway Kinnell, James Dickey,and Robert Bly. The letters, raw and vulnerable, speak of his creative process and his struggles with depression and illness…precious!