Books by Franz Wright

THE BEFORELIFE by Franz Wright
Released: Jan. 31, 2001

"In these short meditations of anguish and hope, Wright achieves the clarity of 'seeing,' and a hard-won wisdom as well."
The dominant moods of Wright's latest work are repentance and resolution. The former covers a lot of territory, but Wright consistently circles back to the prison of addiction—to its vicious cycles and the possibility of release. The poet's Christianity is admittedly unorthodox, but unless we give some credence to the notions of sin (not necessarily original sin), grace, and salvation, we are unlikely to find his vision compelling. Three of the poems are explicit prayers, and many others read like prayers: they dance among the attitudes of atonement, thanksgiving, and petition. The longer, more narrative works do not have the snap and clear vision of his prayerful poems, but this is merely to quibble. In "Primogeniture" he tells of a legacy of child abuse handed down from father to son over generations. It ends on a note of defiance: "So that's how it is done / here, / I thought / and may my hand wither / may it forget how to write / if I ever strike a child." The pun on "write" works on several levels—since Wright's father, James Wright, was also a "writer"—and clarifies the need to work free of inheritance and destructive habit. Read full book review >