Wednesday, January 02, 2008


William Logan takes down Charles Wright. Sadly, I think his assessment is right on:

Wright isn't writing poems any longer—he's laying down a coat of sensibility, as if sensibility were somehow enough; but sensibility isn't like house paint. You have to have a house to paint. America is a forgiving country, and old geezers can write old-geezer poetry for decades without suffering any punishment worse than having a sack of awards dumped on their heads. Wright's late poetry has fallen into a kind of dumb rumination—like the beasts of the field, he has to be prodded not to chew the same damn thing over and over. It might be amusing to see an index to this long, lazy, undemanding book, with entries like:

memory, a lonely observer, 25
memory, deep blank of, 55
memory, immeasurable, like the heart, 25
memory of fur coats, erotic and pungent, 32
memory, slide show of, 3
memory, thick staircase of, 17

Wright was more ambitious once; and I wish he'd drop the immanences and immensities, the references to angels and the moony vacancies ("We're not here a lot longer than we are here, for sure./ Unlike coal, for instance, or star clots"). He's gone over this ground so often, it has begun to look like an open-pit mine.


Still, as Logan mentions earlier in his review, Wright's earlier work--China Trace, The Southern Cross, Zone Journals, Black Zodiac--is as brilliant as anything written in the last 50 years.

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