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Walking to Martha's Vineyard Paperback – April 5, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Terse and consistent, Wright's 15th book (and second from Knopf) returns to the haunted territory of The Beforelife (2001) with a wider range of formal tools. Heartfelt but often cryptic poems, split into short, sometimes even single-line stanzas, explore the poet's troubled romantic life, his self-destructive past, his attraction to a Christian God and his difficult memories of his father-influential American poet James Wright (1927-1980). The younger Wright can deliver a lucid analogy in a single line ("We were/ about as useful as a hammer and nail made of gold"), or stop short in epistemological doubt: "The seeing see only this world." Some poems address James Wright directly ("At ten/ I turned you into a religion"); others take up, laconically and often powerfully, a history of substance abuse and mental illness: "Risperdal whisperdoll// all alone in the dark/ garden." "Letter" bluntly ties the speaker's Christian seeking to his sense of human loneliness: "I keep my eyes fixed on the great naked corpse, the vertical corpse/ who is said to be love/ and who spoke the world/ into being before coming here/ to be tortured and executed by it." Wright's work relies on the force of affect and personality, more than on any particular formal choice; his use of fragments can recall Jean Valentine or Donald Revell, while his psychological probing can call to mind Frank Bidart. His best work may be his least typical, as in the rhyming "Auto-Lullaby," but fans will find Wright's self-diagnostics moving throughout.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

In this radiant new collection, Franz Wright shares his regard for life in all its forms and his belief in the promise of blessing and renewal. As he watches the ?Resurrection of the little apple tree outside / my window,? he shakes off his fear of mortality, concluding ?what death . . . There is only / mine / or yours,? / but the world / will be filled with the living.? In prayerlike poems he invokes the one ?who spoke the world / into being? and celebrates a dazzling universe?snowflakes descending at nightfall, the intense yellow petals of the September sunflower, the planet adrift in a blizzard of stars, the simple mystery of loving other people. As Wright overcomes a natural tendency toward loneliness and isolation, he gives voice to his hope for ?the only animal that commits suicide,? and, to our deep pleasure, he arrives at a place of gratitude that is grounded in the earth and its moods. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Reprint edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375710019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375710018
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Franz Wright's recent works include Earlier Poems, God's Silence, and The Beforelife (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). In 2004 his Walking to Martha's Vineyard received the Pulitzer Prize. He has been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, among other honors. He currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, the translator and writer Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ilya V. Kaminsky on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Franz Wright appears to have a great deal of natural talent, indeed. There's nothing bluff about the poems. The book is very memorable. The poems are direct, in a magical way. They aim for, and attain a clarity that saves us, gives us grace. One wants to call up one's friends and read the poems over the phone. They are that believable. Read the poem called "P.S." in the bookstore and you will want to buy this book. It is the book to be grateful for.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Franz Wright deserves the Pulitzer Prize, and I'm humbly amazed that he actually got it - the highest award in Western civilization literature. His work teaches us how to listen, and even how to think another way... For some, at least to confirm what our middle-of-the-night voices try to say to our fears.
Here, he fulfills the promise tacitly made in his earlier "The Beforelife." Here, he comes inhabiting the words he sought when he incomparably translated the unknown works of Rilke. Here, he finally takes his place I think among the kindred spirits of Rilke, Rumi, and others less-well-known. A mystic poet who can write as if he's living next door. Who doesn't preach, who doesn't so much open our own doors as show us how he opens his. The art is in that; the art is knowing that's enough. A highly distilled essence.
It's easily read; deceptively so, I think. You might want light reading; this is not the book. You might want platitudes, attitudes of cheer. Buy yourself a cup of cocoa instead. You may not be ready for this. That's all right; someday, you will be.
Poetry conducts a Rorschach test on readers, hearers. The poem is *not* the thing, is not the thing you think it is - what you think it is, is really only one of the voices in your head come home to roost. You can tell by the feathers. You can tell by who's laughing.
If you can give yourself the time, give yourself a poem or two from this collection. See what you hear in it. I imagine, for some of us, it could be the words unlocking compassion, as opposed to love, as opposed to sentiment. His work in its spareness shows the superfluity of words, how we use them to amuse us. His work makes the poetry of emotion obvious, banal.
It could be the smallest of voices - just another poet - saying what it takes.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Some poems are meant to be read in a whisper, to be articulated internally, inside the mind's ear. What is lovely about Wright's poetry is its trust in the strength of old-fashion free verse, and its trust in a mature reader. In addition, it was a pleasure, for once, to read an open-hearted and honestly emotional book of poems. The fact that he is James Wright's son does add weight to the work, but who cares? In this case it just helps us to know the father who is being addressed, adding to our sense that he could be our father, too (at least for those of us who love the work of James Wright.)
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chris A. Humston on August 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Franz Wright speaks to me, perhaps more so than any other modern poet, and he does so with an elegant, minimalistic style. He has a keen way of recognizing the common, often mundane aspects of our existence. Yet, when he captures them on paper and puts his characteristic spin on them, it's a thing of beauty.

Not to mention, Wright has lived. I mean really lived. This is an artist who has suffered from major depression, alcoholism, poverty and has come out on top. Although if you talked to him, I am sure he would say that everyday is a journey of new found meaning and sobriety. From interviews I've read, he is a class act!

This collection, as a whole, is about redemption and his new found idea of positive living. Everyone could learn from that.

The poems are never long, never tiresome or tedious and always interesting. He uses rhyme scheme sparingly and when he does, it's hardly noticeable. I also love his use of white space. In my opinion, no matter how great a poem is, if it's laid out poorly it becomes boring and its meaning lost. Wright understands that and has structured each poem to be its own work of art. Some of these poems could actually be framed.

Unlike other Pulitzer winners of the past, I feel that Wright definitely deserves the honor bestowed him.

Favorite poems and quotes from "Walking to Martha's Vineyard":

1. University of One- "And I've lost my fear/of death/here, what death/There is no such thing./There is only/mine,/or yours-/but the world/will be filled with the living."

2. Untitled- "Some say/the more you stray/the more you're/saved,/I wouldn't be surprised/....Set the mind/before the mirror of eternity/and everything will work."

3. Letter- "The humiliation I go through/when I think of my past/can only be described as grace./We are created by being destroyed."

Go out and buy this book. I promise it will speak to you...
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Miller on April 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With this volume, I believe, Franz Wright finally, fully passed from beneath the shadow of his father, the famous poet James Wright. In fact, upon Walking to Martha's Vineyard being awarded the Pulitzer for poetry, James & Franz became the only father & son tandem awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the same category.

Like a number of critics, I felt much of Franz's earlier work got bogged down in issues relating to abuse and addiction - it seemed for a time he was destined to banish himself to a truncated audience by making himself into a single issue, thematic poet. However, in Walking to Martha's Vineyard, Franz Wright forcefully breaks free from simple categorizations - his poetry comes alive, embracing the whole of human experience, including of course genuine suffering and loss. This slender volume is somatic, visual and emotive - it reaches the reader on many levels. Also it's mastery of the line, the springboard of rhythm, is a wonderful balance of experiment & tradition.

I give Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright 5 stars - something I rarely do. I think there is much here for almost all lovers of poetry to cherish. I believe you will find yourself, like I have, returning to its treasures over and over again, always wanting for more.
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