Chickamauga

Charles Wright, Author
Charles Wright, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $19 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-12108-2
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-374-52481-4
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In subject matter, many poems in the six varied-length sections here are akin to haiku: meditations that connect breaths of spirituality to pinpoints in time and space--details of a landscape, season, time of day. But Wright (who won the 1983 National Book Award for poetry) gives his observations a more intimate, personal turn with his conversational voice, which carries subtle King James Bible cadences in long lines swept in broken segments across the page. His concern here is ``the two-hearted sorrow of middle-age''; as his attention shifts from the works of T.S. Eliot and Lao Tzu, to a dwindling orchard, to memories of Italy, there is an underlying sense that some search is over, that objects or events once inspiring now simply add to ``the shadow that everything casts.'' Punctuating such sombre ruminations are images of sudden, fearsome flames: ``My life, this shirt I want to take off, which is on fire....'' The strain of these extremes often stretches the poetry to abstraction, but often, as in ``Expectantly empty, green as a pocket, the meadow waits/ For the wind to rise and fill it,'' the themes of absence and loss are measured in the precisely distilled images for which Wright is known. (Apr.)
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