Charles Wright, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $20 (76p) ISBN 978-0-374-11728-3

Over more than 30 years, Wright's long-lined, even-paced, meditative verses have seemed at once resigned and sublime: frequent topics include Chinese painters and poets, Italian landscapes and America's upper South, especially the Blue Ridge mountains where he makes his Charlottesville home. After the ambitious suites of volumes like Black Zodiac and Chickamauga (which picked up a brace of awards, including a Pulitzer), Wright has settled into shorter, self-contained poems in most of this 17th book: "I write, as I said before, to untie myself, to stand clear," he writes in a Zen-like vein. The title poem (at 13 pages, by far the longest) wanders thoughtfully through landscape and memory before resolving into an elegy for a friend. As always, Wright sets his desire to believe in another world against his confidence that we can know only one: "Under our heads, the world is a long drop and an ache." Wright returns to his Southern heritage ("my own little Civil War," "a half-healed and hurting world") but concentrates more often, this time out, on artists and their lives: Kafka, Morandi, Ezra Pound, Mark Rothko and Thomas Chatterton all turn up. Wright's real subject, as always, is larger than it seems: though they may vary little from poem to poem, his extended, loping lines project a patient point of view that, like a kind of stretch that sometimes releases painful histories, continues to open space. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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