Negative Blue: Selected Later Poems

Charles Wright, Author
Charles Wright, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-22020-4
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-374-52773-0
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The widely esteemed Virginia-based poet collects a decade's worth of striking description and laid-back meditation in this sample of work from his last three books: the energetic Chickamauga, the introspective (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) Black Zodiac and the elegiac Appalachia. Leaping and skating among apothegms and visual intricacies, Wright's skeins of beautiful lines offer the shifting emotional textures of his day-to-day thought and experience: ""Into the world tumult,"" he advises his poems, ""into the chaos of every day,/ Go quietly, quietly."" ""Landscape's a lever of transcendence,"" he writes, though elsewhere he insists he's just setting down impressions--""Journal and landscape I tried to resuscitate both."" Wright's ""verbal amulets"" chronicle the world's imperviousness to our words for it, and our stubborn and lambent need to find those words--one description of the Blue Ridge or the Adriatic claims to respond to an ancient Chinese poet, the next to a contemporary philosopher. Wright's power lies less in whole poems than in lines within them: those linear strengths owe something to Ezra Pound, and something more to the antiphonal balances of the Psalms. Wright ends the volume with seven new short poems: sometimes lugubrious, sometimes rapturous, they focus more than ever on aging and loss--""time, the true dissolver, eats away at our fingertips."" ""I've talked about one thing for thirty years,/ and said it time and again,"" another new poem declares; in an important sense all Wright's recent career makes up one poem, a continual, often compelling exploration of seeing, thinking and the dialectic between them--at one moment Wright is declaring ""Whatever has been will be again,/ unaltered, ever returning""; at the next he's drawn to the ""Serenity of the rhododendrons, pink and white."" (Apr.)
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