Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: From Wright To Write

by lizard

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.

—James Wright

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
in Missoula
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
an explosion
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 wine
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
unimagined cages
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-
ching on
hold tight—
tomorrow, dawn

—William Skink

  1. Bill Lizard,

    Nicely done. Maybe 4 & 20 will e-de-re-volve into a purely punk-ass poetry blog. Wouldn’t bother me. It’s easier for me to walk in and out of poems than it is to listen to the noise we hear posing as news and those comfortably strident voices defending the status quo hosing of the many to pamper and serve the few. So maybe you’ve kicked off a slew of the Wright Stuff today. Here’s my contribution. I liked Wright, but then, I’m a simple fuck.


    The Old Lady says
    I have anger issues
    And I agree
    That I let shit piss me off
    Why? I don’t know
    And I don’t care to analyze it
    Because I’m absolutely certain
    I’m justified in raging
    When something outrageous occurs
    Like when some asshole doesn’t use his blinker
    Or has the unquestioned last word
    About everything and informs me
    That everyone over 40 votes Republican
    That’s the kind of shit that drives me crazy
    Like the fat-fucks that listen to Rush
    Limbaugh and the other talk-radio nuts
    Those good-ol’ ‘Murakins who buy
    Up the multi-national corporate dream
    That somehow allows them to rant
    About sacrificing for God and Wal-Mart
    And borders that don’t exist
    As if our soldiers die for something
    Besides the almighty dollars
    Collected and spent by the drones of the world
    Maybe that’s a little harsh
    A wee bit over the top
    Or maybe not
    Usually these moods tailgate
    Events like the oil geyser greasing the Gulf
    Of Mexico or the death of another friend
    Which happens too often after fifty-plus years
    And is easily amped-up
    By four or five beers
    Because then I’ll tell you what I really think
    I become the cynical prick of wisdom
    After a few drinks loaded
    With pot-shots and a witty chip on my Dick
    Hugo sized shoulders
    A wanna-be Jimbo Dickey
    Drunk as Dylan Thomas lying
    On the stage streamlined as my old friend
    From the east end Dickie D
    Powder monkey of the edgy grin and gritted teeth
    Mocking the sins of the working class
    Clowns who know they’re fucked
    Yet living like Zoo-Looney kings
    We’re such silly-assed trash-spoiled
    Gotta spend it sons-of-bitches
    And I think that’s mainly why most often
    I probably get mad
    Crazy-mad as my dad on a Lenny Bruce
    Roll like a Twainy Wilde-man
    Who doesn’t want to play along
    But is not sure of anything anymore
    Are you? Maybe the monsters were wrong
    Their songs too full of violence and sex
    Delta blues and barbecued pork
    Loins screaming at me to eat
    Art the satiating lie that whispers
    Truth and makes me think
    I’m not the only sad sack
    Of declining testosterone
    Perched on the branches of despair
    Orgasm and lunacy breaking down
    Believe me I’d rather not be Wright
    And I’d rather not get angry
    But count blossoms and blessings
    My preference for breaking
    Has always been into tears

    for James Wright and Quinton Duval


  1. 1 Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Anticipating April | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] From Wright To Write […]

  2. 2 152 Poetry Posts to Celebrate April, National Poetry Month | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] From Wright To Write […]

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