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September 30, 2018


Non-fiction: James Wright: A Life in Poetry

by N@ncy



  1. You know how once in a while you run into a book that’s
  2. so good you don’t want it to end,
  3. so you draw read it very slowly, drawing it out?
  4. For me, this is one of those books.
  5. I just had a few pages more to read
  6. ….but stopped and started to end my night’s reading  last night and
  7. ….went to bed.
  8. I just did not want Jimmy to leave me last night.



  1. James Wright is one of the best poets I’ve ever read.
  2. (Seamus Heaney…is the very best!)
  3. Why?
  4. His poems are  written in plain language that can connect with the reader.
  5. Too many poets are cryptic
  6. ….they think the purpose of poetry is to be cryptic.
  7. Poetry should be plain and simple
  8. …but that does not mean it cannot be complex.


Strong point:

  1. The book packs an emotional punch without cliche.
  2. Blunt succeeds in conveying a portrait of James Wrights
  3. frenzied urgency,  his depression, struggle with alcoholism
  4. …and the obsession to know what makes us tick.


James Wright  (1927-1980)

  1. He was the poet of the downtrodden in mind and body,
  2. the castaways of society,
  3. the commonplace victims trapped in the poor streets.


James Wright

  1. He did not walk around, observing the world and
  2. coining apt analogies for what appears most striking.
  3. He suffered to express is emotions….


James Wright

  1. He had an appetite for new materials during sabbaticals in Europe
  2. …especially his beloved Verona.
  3. I’d rather be dead in Verona than immortal in Ohio.”


James Wright

  1. He suffered from depression and his poems were
  2. his newly invented safe rooms.
  3. Places we might not have noticed until Wright showed them to us.


James Wright

  1. A poem has physical landscapes….”my grave, my ditch of defeat.”
  2. Martins Ferry, Ohio was the center of James Wright’s poetic imagination
  3. …hardscrabble existance.
  4. It was a touchstone and other landscapes are tried against it.


James Wright

  1. He gives vivid impression of grief and longing.
  2. …when he wrote an elegy for the scholar Philip Timberlake.
  3. He was one of Wright’s first mentors in 1949.
  4. The title is in itself a poem… What Can a Man Bear.
  5. It is sorrow distilled into eight lines:


All afternoon, I take my time to
I am too cold to cry against the
Of roots and stars, drifting above
your face.


Why is this poem to poignant?

  1. James Wright  seems to….
  2. extend a hand to the reader and say:
  3. Come here, with me and lets share
  4. …this experience of language.”


Last thoughts:

  1. Reading this book these last 5 days
  2. …felt like breathing pure oxygen.
  3. Being immersed with such a troubled and
  4. …brilliant poet has shaken me to the core.
  5. Wright’s poems contain a density of emotion that stirs the soul.
  6. Who did Wright emulate? Meister Eckhart.
  7. Wright reminds himself often of Eckahrt’s way toward an orderly life:
  8. “…simply to do the next thing.”
  9. Wright was tormented by depression and loneliness
  10. …not of the body, but loneliness of the soul.
  11. I think the title of one of his
  12. …most famous collections sums it up:
  13. “The Branch Will Not Break”



Read more from biography, poetry
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  1. #NonficNov week 1 | NancyElin

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