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Selected Poems Paperback – April 28, 2005

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Wright (1927-80) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. His books include Saint Judas, Shall We Gather at the River, and The Branch Will Not Break. FSG published Above the River: The Complete Poems in 1992.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (May 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374529027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374529024
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Among 20th century poets Wright stands as singular in his evocation of pathos without heavy-handed sentiment, his use of clear language without being predictable, and his imagery which loves the "things" of the world without being objective or cold. There are few poets of the last fifty years, if ever, who can make the grand claims that he does without sounding excessive, and in that he seems to be a great poet of timing. How else can one be moved by such lines as "Suddenly I realize/That if I stepped out of my body I would break/Into blossom" without the cumulative effects of image and rhythm? Bly does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the major features and periods of Wright's poetry, breaking things into times of darkness and light (and pointing out how it is that Wright, in his peculiar fashion, could find light and hope in moments of despair), as well as giving clear definition to Wright's major influences and pertinent details of his biography. Anne Wright's foreward is also a great asset, as it briefly shows some of the process into making a selected volume, given both her lack of experience as an editor and her emotional connection to the poems. As she suggests, it is hard to find consensus as to which poems should be included from Above the River, the complete volume, yet the major poems are all represented, as well as some prose pieces and the formative early poems that show the influence of John Crowe Ransom over Wright, then his student. In all, this should stand as an excellent introductory volume of a poet who stands as one of the few originals who cannot be immitated but also cannot be ignored.
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Format: Paperback
I've loved Wright for years and his mid- to late-period poems are extraordinary. But read this book in three days and watch a crescendo peak about the middle and you'll see that the editing decisions create a distinct impression that Wright, at heart, was rather sappy--that he was grossly self-absorbed and bathetic. That famous line; "I have wasted my life . . ." really falls flat when you get to it through the poems that build up to it. This is not the best place to tackle Wright. I'd try to get his books in single, stand-alone format, or the Collected. I found these particular poems, taken as a whole, to be extremely unflattering. I know most of you will disagree. (Wright is, of course, considered a saint in some parts and I know I'll be flamed for saying these things. But that's what I felt.)
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