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Archive for the ‘James Wright’ Category

 

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This is one of my favorite pictures of James Wright…it’s just the way I imagine him! Yesterday was his birthday. He would have been 80 years old.

James was born in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio–his Ohio roots are palpable in his poems; his Ohio humility is palpable in his letters. I love his prose as much as his poems…his connection to the earth; his sense of place. Every time I read his work, I learn something; I feel deeply and I breathe more fully. Thank you, James. Your humble spirit continues, informs, delights.

A TRUE VOICE
for Robert Bly

In northern Minnesota the floors of the earth are covered with white sand. Even after the sun has gone down beyond the pine trees and the moon has not yet come across the lake water, you can walk down white roads. The dark is a dark you can see beyond, into a deep place here and there. Whatever light there is left, it has room enough to move around in. The tall thick pines have all disappeared after the sun. That is why the small blue spruces look so friendly when your eyes feel at home in the dark. I never touched a black spruce before the moon came, for fear it would say something in a false voice. You can only hear a spruce tree speak in its own silence.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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Today I was Happy,
So I made This Poem

As the plump squirrel scampers
Across the roof of the corncrib,
The moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,
Each moment of time is a mountain.
An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven,
Crying
This is what I wanted.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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Today is beautiful–sunny…warm in the sun. At the same time, winter is at our back. Ice along 218.

This morning, I sit with the fear of dying…a friend–Stage IV Cancer–facing the ultimate that we all face and deny. She lives with winter at her back. She lives with the search for purpose and authentic expression. Suddenly, her tolerance snaps–her tolerance for rigid structure; her tolerance for the medical profession; her tolerance for being poked, prodded, needled, scanned; her tolerance for family members who cling to routine interaction, habits of conversation…that life-long tolerance; the teeth gritting tolerance just snapped…and everything gave way.

Is it the fear of dying? Or is it the fear of continuing to live a tolerant life–or the fear of just tolerating, enduring, putting up with another day of life? Her unraveling was beautiful, powerful, real…courageous.

I WAS AFRAID OF DYING

Once,
I was afraid of dying
In a field of dry weeds.
But now,
All day long I have been walking among damp fields,
Trying to keep still, listening
To insects that move patiently.
Perhaps they are sampling the fresh dew that gathers slowly
In empty snail shells
And in the secret shelters of sparrow feather fallen on the
earth.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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LATE NOVEMBER IN A FIELD

Today I am walking alone in a bare place.
And winter is here
Two squirrels near a fence post
Are helping each other drag a branch
Toward a hiding place; it must be somewhere
Behind those ash trees
They are still alive, they ought to save acorns
Against the cold
Frail paws rifle the troughs between cornstalks when the moon
Is looking away.
The earth is hard now,
The soles of my shoes need repairs.
I have nothing to ask a blessing for,
Except these words
I wish they were
Grass

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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THE JEWEL

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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LYING IN A HAMMOCK AT WILLIAM DUFFY’S FARM
IN PINE ISLAND, MINNESOTA

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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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…

A BLESSING

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
Into blossom.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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!

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