Saturday, August 1, 2015

The poet James Wright and his poet son Franz Wright

One of my favorite poets is James Wright - 1927 to 1980.

I was shocked to find he had died, and so had his son, Franz Wright. 

Here is his poem "A Blessing."  

A Blessing

By James Wright  
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.
From Wiki - His poetry often deals with the disenfranchised, or the American outsider. Wright suffered from depression and bipolar mood disorders and also battled alcoholism his entire life. He experienced several nervous breakdowns, was hospitalized, and was subjected to electroshock therapy. His dark moods and focus on emotional suffering were part of his life and often the focus of his poetry, although given the emotional turmoil he experienced personally, his poems can be optimistic in expressing a faith in life and human transcendence. In The Branch Will Not Break, the enduring human spirit becomes thematic. Nevertheless, the last line of his poem "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" famously ends, "I have wasted my life."[1]

I was very curious about James Wright and read a long interview with him in the Paris Review. The magazine was founded in 1953 by in Paris by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton.

In its first five years, The Paris Review published works by Jack Kerouac, Philip Larkin, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, Terry Southern, Adrienne Rich, Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Jean Genet and Robert Bly.

Gordimer died in 2014. Roth and Bly are still among the living. Roth said he'll never write another novel again. At one time Bly said he'd never write another poem. All this is to be found in the 1972 Parison Review interview by Peter A Stitt, who teaches and writes from Gettysburg College.


I was saddened to learn that James Wright's son, Franz Wright, also battled bipolar and the bottle and died in 2015 at age 62 of cancer.


By Franz Wright
You do look a little ill.

But we can do something about that, now.   

Can’t we.

The fact is you’re a shocking wreck.   

Do you hear me.

You aren’t all alone.

And you could use some help today, packing in the   
dark, boarding buses north, putting the seat back and   
grinning with terror flowing over your legs through   
your fingers and hair . . .

I was always waiting, always here.   

Know anyone else who can say that.

My advice to you is think of her for what she is:   
one more name cut in the scar of your tongue.

What was it you said, “To rather be harmed than   
harm, is not abject.”


Can we be leaving now.

We like bus trips, remember. Together

we could watch these winter fields slip past, and   
never care again,

think of it.

I don’t have to be anywhere.

Image result for franz wright  These are not happy people.

Here are some notes I took from the Paris Review Interview.

He liked Kenneth Patchen, who I read at Goddard College, but remember nothing.  I do remember the word "Albion" in connection with him.

As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies

O my lady, my fairest dear, my sweetest, loveliest one
Your lips have splashed my dull house with the speech of flowers
My hands are hallowed where they touched over your
soft curving.

It is good to be weary from that brilliant work
It is being God to feel your breathing under me

A waterglass on the bureau fills with morning . . .
Don’t let anyone in to wake us.


A chronicle of violent fury and compassion, written when Surrealism was still vigorous and doing battle with psychotic "reality," The Journal of Albion Moonlight is the American monument to engagement.

Kenneth Patchen sets off on an allegorical journey of his own in which the far boundaries of love and murder, madness and sex are sensually explored. His is the tale of a disordered pilgrimage to H. Roivas (Heavenly Savior) in which the deranged responses of individuals point up the outer madness from which they derive in a more imaginative way that social protest generally allows.
More poets who James Wright liked.....

Sir John Davies and his “Nosce Teipsum,” George Peele. They were all in there.

When they figured out blank verse somehow they learned this was a way you could sing and talk at the same time

Let me give you just one example, he says in his interview, from [Whitman's] poem “I Heard You, Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ.”

He has this line, and you don’t have to ham it up to hear the effect: “Winds of autumn, as I walk’d the woods at dusk I heard your long-stretch’d sighs up above so mournful.”

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