cover image Caribou


Charles Wright. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-11902-7

“Musician says, beauty is the enemy of expression./ I say expression is the enemy of beauty./ God says, who gives a damn anyway”—that’s how Wright tells a joke. Indeed, his latest collection (after 2013’s Bollingen Prize–winning Bye-and-Bye) is a dexterous balance of lightness in dark. Split in three parts, all named for things cast off or left over—”Echoes,” “End Papers,” “Apocrypha”—the book is rife with nihilism, humor, and beauty: “This is as old man’s poetry,/ written by someone who’s spent his life/ Looking for one truth./ Sorry, pal, there isn’t one./ Unless, of course, the trees and their blow-down relatives/ Are part of it./ Unless the late-evening armada of clouds/ Spanished along the horizon are part of it.” To Wright, careful observation of the world and the self is the closest we can come to God: “I tried to make a small hole in my life, something to slip through/ To the other side.” As for dealing with that metaphysical lack, even if “[w]e live beyond the metaphysician’s fingertips,” and “[t]here is no metaphor, there is no simile,/ and there is no rhetoric/ to nudge us to their caress... The trees remain the trees, God help us.” Wright once again delivers the kind of poetry we cannot imagine poetry without. (Mar.)