Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: From Wright To Write
I haven’t read James Wright extensively, but I picked up a few books in Bozeman, which prompted this post back in September.
To reorient myself to Wright for this post, I consulted the ubiquitous wikipedia, and found this tidbit:
Technically, Wright was an innovator, especially in the use of his titles, first lines, and last lines, which he used to great dramatic effect in defense of the lives of the disenfranchised. He is equally well known for his tender depictions of the bleak landscapes of the post-industrial American Midwest. Since his death, Wright has developed a cult following, transforming him into a seminal writer of significant influence. Hundreds of writers gathered annually for decades following his death to pay tribute at the James Wright Poetry Festival held from 1981 through 2007 in Martins Ferry.
Earlier in the week, I pulled Wright’s Collected Poems from the shelf and read a poem titled TO THE POETS OF NEW YORK. Sufficiently floored, I let it stew, and came up with a bit of writing I’ve been working on since yesterday. Enjoy!
You kept a dark counsel.
It is not seemly a man should rend open by day
The huge roots of his blood trees.
A man ought to hide sometimes on the banks
Of the sky,
And some human beings
Have need of lingering back in the fastidious half-light
Even at dawn.
O simmering swamp!
tears and sweat and the muck of wood-rot!
may your pungent stew never dry
cover of lush growth ripped out
and exposed to sky
O red roots gripping earth!
sun saw a Monday drag of mind
and wept bursts of flare
torching Australia as a pleasant snow fell
but it’s Thursday
and the snow won’t make a snowman or snow-fort
it won’t cooperate at all
like my kids when I forbid their feast of frost
because it isn’t clean
and leaded gasoline increased violent crime rates
says Mother Jones
and I know a word that rhymes with Jones
but this ain’t no political poem
because the swamp features amazing spiders, clever critters
and the ancestors of dinosaurs
sliding through silt-dark waters
I have not seen them in person
but I watch a lot of movies
like The Orchid Thief
where people get high snorting flower pollen
then get eaten by crocodiles
all jumbled in a post-modern narrative
like the fractured reality of Donnie’s tangent
he fixed by dying
too bad there is no tail reality dangles which we may grab
fur in hand
pulling fist over fist
too bad the gist of our collective derangement
is the always more song
and please pass the pepto bismol
neutron bomb as solution to hoarding—I fist bump the sky
my hand opening meant to signify
more fireworks than IED
more touchdown than a celebratory, post-game rape
we all wear capes now
recording the action with our inescapable phones
which rhymes with jones
which makes me think of coffee, green leaf
and good time Bacchus spraying interstellar space cum
all over Pan’s hipster turntable
you could believe this is possible
if your brain wasn’t damaged by the toxic element Pb
you could Tom Robbins on a slow train across tundra
exploring his reverse-birth into her wild flower
it’s unfortunate the glue factory traps horse spirits
in crude adhesive goop
and if redemption is possible
lets start by building instruments to spring them from their
in the story without end
in the swamp of sadness where Morla lives
where Artax sinks away
and Atreyu cries
The Nothing conspires to leak away the charge
to mute forever light
O kid spark beating back the darkness!
though worms of want may dance upon your tongue
there is sun, song, and the stars at night
keeping the whole sad drama in-