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The Beforelife

by Franz Wright

In this stunning collection, Franz Wright chronicles the journey back from a place of isolation and wordlessness. After a period when it seemed certain he would never write poetry again, he speaks with bracing clarity about the twilit world that lies between madness and sanity, addiction and recovery. Wright negotiates the precarious transition from illness to health in a state of skeptical rapture, discovering along the way the exhilaration of love--both divine and human--and finding that even the most battered consciousness can be good company. Whether he is writing about his regret for the abortion of a child, describing the mechanics of slander ("I can just hear them on the telephone and keening all their kissy little knives"), or composing an ironic ode to himself ("To a Blossoming Nut Case"), Wright's poems are exquisitely precise. Charles Simic has characterized him as a poetic miniaturist, whose "secret ambition is to write an epic on the inside of a matchbook cover. " Time and again, Wright turns on a dime in a few brief lines, exposing the dark comedy and poignancy of his heightened perception. Here is one of the poems from the collection: Description of Her Eyes Two teaspoonfuls, and my mind goes everyone can kiss my ass now-- then it's changed, I change my mind. Eyes so sad, and infinitely kind.

Earlier Poems

by Franz Wright

This collection is a rich study in one poet's development--not simply Wright's journey from dark to light, but a revelation of the ways in which the darkness contained glimmers of what was to come.

F

by Franz Wright

In these riveting poems, Wright declares, "I've said all that / I had to say. / In writing. / I signed my name. / It's death's move." As he considers his mortality, the poet finds a new elation and clarity on the page, handing over for our examination the flawed yet kneeling-in-gratitude self he has become. F stands both for Franz, the poet-speaker who represents all of us on our baffling lifelong journeys, and for the alphabet, the utility and sometimes brutality of our symbols. (It may be, he jokes grimly, his "grade in life.") From "Entries of the Cell," the long central poem that details the loneliness of the single soul, to short narrative prose poems and traditional lyrics, Wright revels in the compensatory power of language, observing the daytime headlights following a hearse, or the wind, "blessing one by one the unlighted buds of the backbent peach tree's unnoted return." He is at his best in this beautiful and startling collection.ent peach tree's unnoticed return." He is at his best in this beautiful and startling collection. From the Hardcover edition.

God's Silence

by Franz Wright

In this luminous new collection of poems, Franz Wright expands on the spiritual joy he found in his Pulitzer Prize-winningWalking to Martha's Vineyard. Wright, whom we know as a poet of exquisite miniatures, opensGod's Silencewith "East Boston, 1996," a powerful long poem that looks back at the darker moments in the formation of his sensibility. He shares his private rules for bus riding ("No eye contact: the eyes of the terrified / terrify"), and recalls, among other experiences, his first encounter with a shotgun, as an eight-year-old boy ("In a clearing in the cornstalks . . . it was suggested / that I fire / on that muttering family of crows"). Throughout this volume, Wright continues his penetrating study of his own and our collective soul. He reaches a new level of acceptance as he intones the paradox "I have heard God's silence like the sun," and marvels at our presumptions: We speak of Heaven who have not yet accomplished even this, the holiness of things precisely as they are, and never will! Though Wright often seeks forgiveness in these poems, his black wit and self-deprecation are reliably present, and he delights in reminding us that "literature will lose, sunlight will win, don't worry. " But in this book, literature wins as well. God's Silenceis a deeply felt celebration of what poetry (and its silences) can do for us. From the Hardcover edition.

Kindertotenwald

by Franz Wright

A genre-bending collection of prose poems from Pulitzer Prize-winner Franz Wright brings us surreal tales of childhood, adolescence, and adult awareness, moving from the gorgeous to the shocking to a sense of peace. Wright's most intimate thoughts and images appear before us in dramatic and spectral short narratives: mesmerizing poems whose colloquial sound and rhythms announce a new path for this luminous and masterful poet. In these journeys, we hear the constant murmured "yes" of creation--"it will be packing its small suitcase soon; it will leave the keys dangling from the lock and set out at last," Wright tells us. He introduces us to the powerful presences in his world (the haiku master Basho, Nietzsche, St. Teresa of Avila, and especially his father, James Wright) as he explores the continually unfolding loss of childhood and the mixed blessings that follow it. Taken together, the pieces deliver the diary of a poet--"a fairly good egg in hot water," as he describes himself--who seeks to narrate his way through the dark wood of his title, following the crumbs of language. "Take everything," Wright suggests, "you can have it all back, but leave for a little the words, of all you gave the most mysteriously lasting." With a strong presence of the dramatic in every line, Kindertotenwald pulls us deep into this journey, where we too are lost and then found again with him.From the Hardcover edition.

Walking to Martha's Vineyard

by Franz Wright

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.

Wheeling Motel

by Franz Wright

In his tenth collection of poetry, Franz Wright gives us an exquisite book of reconciliation with the past and acceptance of what may come in the future. From his earliest years, he writes in "Will," he had "the gift of impermanence / so I would be ready, / accompanied / by a rage to prove them wrong / . . . and that I too was worthy of love." This rage comes coupled with the poet's own brand of love, what he calls "one / strange alone / heart's wish / to help all / hearts." Poetry is indeed Wright's help, and he delivers it to us with a wry sense of the daily in America: in his wonderfully local relationship to God (whom he encounters along with a catfish in the emerald shallows of Walden Pond); in the little West Virginia motel of the title poem, on the banks of the great Ohio River, where "Tammy Wynette's on the marquee" and he is visited by the figure of Walt Whitman, "examining the tear on a dead face."Here, in Wheeling Motel, Wright's poetry continues to surprise us with its frank appraisal of our soul, and with his own combustible loneliness and unstoppable joy.From the Hardcover edition.

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