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Old 12-12-2017, 09:45 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,070
Default James Wright Biography

James Wright: A Life in Poetry
Jonathan Blunk
FSG, 2017

I've just finished this. It is very thorough as Wright left behind many letters and journals. Blunk also interviewed many of Wright's friends before they died.

Wright was incredibly learned and had a vast memory for poems, Dickens, sports trivia, etc. He was also a great teacher of literature, though he became somewhat unreliable because of his drinking.

He was the kind of poet whose search for "authenticity" perhaps blinded him to the damage he was doing to others. I personally think that his poetry went astray after his first two books, though I do like individual later poems. He had such a fine "natural" ear that he ended up writing against his own grain for the last 20 years of his life. Still, Blunk shows why it happened and makes the choice sound necessary, given how Wright couldn't detach the poetry from his daily life.

He died at 53. Tomorrow is his birthday.
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Old 12-13-2017, 12:02 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,443

Here's the James Wright poem that James Galvin referred to more than once in class:

Saint Judas

When I went out to kill myself, I caught
A pack of hoodlums beating up a man.
Running to spare his suffering, I forgot
My name, my number, how my day began,
How soldiers milled around the garden stone
And sang amusing songs; how all that day
Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone
Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away.

Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten,
Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope
Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms:
Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten,
The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.

James Wright
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Old 12-13-2017, 09:32 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,070

This is one of the poems, read fifty years ago, that helped me discover the type of poetry I wanted to write. Wright somehow convinced himself that this and others like it were "academic" (his word) poetry.
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Old 12-17-2017, 12:06 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,134

It's a strong poem.
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Old 01-06-2018, 10:00 AM
Phil Wood Phil Wood is offline
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Wales
Posts: 105

A friend, not a member of Eratosphere, read this thread and remembered that the poem Saint Judas was discussed by Wright in a letter to a publisher:

And the final poem in the whole book -- 'Saint Judas' -- is both a dramatic monologue (though very short, a sonnet in fact) and a statement about a loving action (i.e., such an action can have moral meaning only if it is performed without hope of reward -- and Judas, who was in the perfect position to perform an action without hope of reward, by his performance of hopeless and despairing love attains what I would hope to regard as sanctity)

A Wild Perfection -- The Selected Letters of James Wright (pg89)
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