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A Short History of the Shadow: Poems Hardcover – April 7, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374263027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374263027
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,461,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No attentive reader would ever mistake Wright's evocative, sprawling poems for poems by anyone else; many readers, however, find it hard to tell his mature works apart. Wright (who won the Pulitzer for 1997's Black Zodiac) follows up Negative Blue (2000) with a moody, winning collection that plays to his long-recognized strengths: balanced and lengthy musical lines; ambling meditation; beautiful Blue Ridge landscapes; nods to American, Italian and Chinese poets; and a self-aware, pragmatist-cum-Taoist resignation to the fleetingness of all things. "Caught in the weeds and understory of our own lives," Wright says in the opening poem, "proper attention is our refuge now, our perch and our praise." That attention migrates through his evocative collocations of phrase and detail. Two striking suites of short poems with long titles use anaphora and prayer to explore mortality and the night sky: "The late September night is a train of thought, a wound That doesn't bleed"; "O Something, be with me, time is short." Another suite, "Relics," swerves from a similar plan into distractingly elaborate allusions to Wallace Stevens. The concluding set of poems, called "Body and Soul," lists "Nightmemories, night outsourcings," deciding that "Ephemera's what moves us." Few readers will see much departure from Wright's work of the 1980s and 1990s; many, however, will be fine with that. (Apr.)Forecast: Besides his 1997 Pulitzer, Wright (who teaches at the University of Virginia) has racked up almost every other major award, including the National Book Award (1983) and the Academy of American Poets' Lenore Marshall Prize (1995). Those accolades may not translate into attention to this new volume, pubbed during a busy poetry month and closely following Wright's last, larger book.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Wright's latest is a collection of typically loose-limbed meditations whose long lines drape languorously across the page. Equally relaxed, the poet centers himself in the domestic confines of his study or yard, observing the incremental motions of a world nearly on hold: "how the days move, one at a time,/ always at night, and always in my direction." Wright's universe encompasses late afternoon and evening obscurities, seasons past their peak biding time till the next one arrives. All are rendered in his signature style: the slow pace and passive imagery ("Evening arranges itself around the fallen leaves"), the free but hardly exuberant association prompted by consideration of what's readily seen ("The landscape that goes/ no deeper than the eye"), and the casual allusions to European writers and locales. This observational state, of course, becomes a metaphor for late middle age, its diminished assessments of what lies ahead and what has been accomplished ("I've made a small hole in the silence, a tiny one,/ Just big enough for a word"). Gravely wistful, these poems by the National Book Critics Circle Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Wright are best read in the day's waning moments. Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian A. Farah MD on May 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Wright's latest volume is a true heir to his previous work and a very fulfilling continuation of his main themes. No other contemporary poet, or perhaps any poet ever, has so insightfully unpacked the single mystery of our humanness like Wright. His basic metaphor remains intact: the mystery, and indeed the concept of God, in relation to man is examined through the vehicle of nature - from the tiny and seemingly insignificant, to the vast cosmos. All the while, that which is visible and that which is not, will nod in and out for their brilliant cameos - one moment it is language itself, the next, a dogwood bloom. His imagery remains unique, beautiful, and so inventive that ripping it out of context would only serve to confuse.
Readers of Wright will be pleased that his melancholia of previous work has not been replaced so much as supplanted by a new sense of humor ("If This Is Where God's At, Why Is That Fish Dead?" and "If My Glasses Were Better, I Could See Where I'm Headed For" open the second section). Fellow poets will no doubt continue to marvel at his style. It has been said that viewing an Ansel Adams makes one never want to pick up a camera, and viewing a Walker Evans causes a desire to pick one up, yet reading Wright makes one realize there is no need for the amateur to attempt poetry.
Wright's previous works have been called a "trilogy of Dantean scope" and one is reminded not only of Dante, but Joyce when examining this latest work. If Joyce's "trilogy" of Portrait, Ulysses, and Finnegan" were meant to be summed up in a coherent statement of the universes itself in a fourth work, prevented by his untimely death, as the legend goes, then that statement would likely resemble in spirit "A Short History of the Shadow.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "baianren" on May 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Every true poem is a spark,/and aspires to the condition of the original fire..." (from "Body and Soul II").
In this, Wright's fifteenth volume, the language--urgent and palpable--spills off the page like a shower of sparks. Not since Yeats has a master poet in our language seemed poised to enter such a rich and important later phase. Wright is unquestionably the top dog of our poetry, and in this book his fire shows no sign of dimming.
Personally I think that ths book (and fourteen others) are a must-read for anybody interested in what the English language is capable of.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "hirofantv" on May 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The poems in this book are so, so unique. Nobody else writes like Charles Wright. & one beautiful asoect about his writing is of course the SOUND. It's clear that the music of language is of prime importance to Charles Wright as a poet. Just listen to these few lines: "Soul-shunt and pat down, crumbs snow flecked across the back yard, then gone on the sun's tongue." My. The whole book sounds that refined. Also, the whole lexus beyond only the sounds is impeccable. For example, in Nine Panel Yaak River Screen, a poem of high ellipticism, there's a line where "sunlight opens her other leg." It's poetry that resonates with very deeply rooted decisions & organisation. Another poem ends "The broken dream-cries of angel half-dazed in the woods. The adjective and the noun." Wonderful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "hirofantv" on May 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The poems in this book are so, so unique. Nobody else writes like Charles Wright. One beautiful aspect about his writing is of course the SOUND. It's clear that the music of language is of prime importance to Charles Wright as a poet. Just listen to these few lines: "Soul-shunt and pat down, crumbs snow flecked across the back yard, then gone on the sun's tongue." My. The whole book sounds that refined. Also, the whole lexus beyond only the sounds is impeccable. For example, in Nine Panel Yaak River Screen, a poem of high ellipticism, there's a line where "sunlight opens her other leg." It's poetry that resonates with very deeply rooted decisions & organisation. Another poem ends "The broken dream-cries of angel half-dazed in the woods. The adjective and the noun." Wonderful.
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