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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Wright’

Constant Freshness

June 12, 2014 | by

wright

A manuscript page from “Reading Rorty and Paul Celan One Morning in Early June,” an unpublished—or at least unpublished ca. 1989—poem by Charles Wright.

Congratulations to Charles Wright, who was announced today as America’s next poet laureate. James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that Wright’s poems have “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness” and commended his “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility—it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”

Wright has received, as the Times notes, “just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.”

The Paris Review interviewed Charles Wright in 1989 for the Art of Poetry series; he said of the form, 

There seem to me to be certain absolutes in whatever field of endeavor one is in. In business and banking they may be availability and convertibility, security and safekeeping, minimal loss and steady, incremental accession. I don’t think it’s that way in poetry, though such values will get you to temporary high places. Brilliance is what you reach for, language that has a life of its own, seriousness of subject matter beyond the momentary gasp and glitter, a willingness to take on what’s difficult and beautiful, a willingness to be different and abstract, a willingness to put on the hair shirt and go into the desert and sit still, and listen hard, and write it down, and tell no one.

We’re happy to have published six of Wright’s poems in our Summer 2008 issue. Here’s one of them, “In Memory of the Natural World”:

Four ducks on the pond tonight, the fifth one MIA.
A fly, a smaller than normal fly,
Is mapping his way through sun-strikes across my window.

Behind him, as though at attention,
                                                                         the pine trees hold their breaths.
The fly’s real, the trees are real,
And the ducks.
                                   But the glass is artificial, and it’s on fire.

We wish Wright all the best in his new role.

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Daymares, and Other News

June 12, 2014 | by

5atress14

Arthur Tress, Child Buried in Sand, Coney Island, 196o, black-and-white photograph. Via Gothamist.

  • Charles Wright will be America’s next poet laureate. “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do … But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”
  • Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is the literary novel of the moment—but it is any good? Many, including our own Lorin Stein, respond with a resounding no. “A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clichés—it deals in them … Nowadays, even The New York Times Book Review is afraid to say when a popular book is crap.”
  • Every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for … A prediction: the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel … will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up.”
  • A portfolio of Arthur Tress’s photographs, from the late sixties and seventies, of children at play in Coney Island: “Tress spoke with children about their dreams—often nightmares that involved falling, monsters, that buried alive scenario—and would then photograph them experiencing it in a safe, staged setting.”
  • New! From the makers of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” it’s “Morrissey Has an Infection.”

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Ishmael Reed on ‘Juice!’

September 13, 2011 | by

Ishmael Reed © Terence Byrnes.

Seventy-three-year-old Ishmael Reed has been a major figure in American letters for more than four decades. In April, Dalkey Archive published Juice!, Reed’s first novel in more than fifteen years. Juice! tells the story of a struggling African American cartoonist whose personal and professional life is disrupted by the media frenzy surrounding the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Earlier this summer, Reed, who is based in Oakland, California, responded to some of my questions about his latest work.

Juice! is your first novel since 1993. What inspired you to write another novel after all these years?

I began this one as soon as I heard about the murders. I was vacationing in Hawaii, and the murders ruined my vacation. The media went berserk over the murder of Nicole Simpson, the kind of ideal white woman—a Rhine maiden—one finds in Nazi art and propaganda, murdered allegedly by a black beast. It was a story that reached into the viscera of the American unconscious, recalling the old Confederate art of the black boogeyman as an incubus squatting on top of a sleeping, half-clad white woman. It was also an example of collective blame. All black men became O. J. The murders ignited a kind of hysteria.

Juice! does not have a conventional structure. The novel incorporates courtroom documents, television transcripts, and pieces of visual art. It also plays around quite a bit with time. What gave rise to the novel’s peculiar shape?

I try to experiment. Writing a conventional novel would be boring for me. In this novel, I added cartoons. Cartoons were probably my introduction to storytelling as a child, because on Sundays we got The Chattanooga Times, and I’d read the funnies. A publisher wanted to publish Juice! but decided that the cartoons weren’t up to par. So, at the age of seventy, I studied at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, and the cartoons improved so much that I now do political cartoons for The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Brights.Read More »

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Eugenio Montale Comes to New York

February 23, 2011 | by

A young Eugenio Montale.

“So you know Italian?”

I suddenly experience an obscure and unwelcome pang of solidarity with Christina Aguilera.

“Not very well.”

I look down at my shoes. Perhaps they will help.

“Or at all.”

But, I want to add, I do know Eugenio Montale. Or, at least, I’ve read him in translation. This matters because I’m at the handsomely furnished apartment of Professor Riccardo Viale, the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, where a distinguished crowd of diplomats, writers, and journalists have assembled for a dinner to honor Montale. The occasion is a two-day celebration of the last century’s greatest Italian poet and a Nobel Laureate, which itself forms part of a broader program of events devised by the American Academy in Rome to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the unification of Italy.

The above lines of dialogue are repeated a number of times over the course of the evening, but nobody seems to mind my genial ignorance. I may be stoutly and unheroically monoglot, but I don’t share the cultural introversion of my compatriot Kingsley Amis. I’m here to learn, which is fortunate because the room is full of enthusiasts and newcomers alike. Burrowing into a blond hill of steaming polenta, I chat with a business reporter for Corriere della Sera, the newspaper to which Montale contributed reviews of books and opera productions. Meanwhile, over a glass of wine, the playwright John Guare explains to me how he has only recently come to Montale but is determined to explore his work in more depth.

Fortunately for us, these events are also about translation and, more particularly, about how one of the principle gifts that Italy has bestowed upon the world came to be unwrapped. We have all just attended a busy recital at the nearby Metropolitan Club, where the actor Fausto Lombardi read from a selection of Montale’s lyrics, while Farrar, Straus and Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi and poet Charles Wright delivered their translations, and poet Rosanna Warren introduced us to those of William Arrowsmith. To emphasize his appeal to American poets and readers, three different versions of Montale’s most famous poem, “The Eel,” were read, but out of a collegial spirit of shared excitement rather than any sense of rivalry.

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