APPALACHIA by Charles Wright


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The latest volume by the much-celebrated University of Virginia professor is the third part of Wright’s third trilogy, begun with the recent Chickamauga and Black Zodiac, for which he won last year’s Pulitzer Prize—and though it stands alone, this characteristic book links with the others thematically, and stylistically, as much as you can call Wright’s prose phrasings a style. If not much happens musically in his watered-down Poundian collages, he does play to academic critics with his oft-stated concerns: landscape, God, and language, though he seems to have little faith in any of these. He worries about an afterlife with a dead God; finds language “our common enemy—; and is always seeking a ’secret landscape behind the landscape.” Many of his poems have a where and when (i.e., a place and a month), and find their way to a gee-whiz insight, a sententious pearl that’s often borrowed from his readings in Asian poetry or European lite philosophers. After all these years, we come closer to Wright’s simple aesthetic, but it’s not in “Ars Poetic II,” where he affirms his belief in a God who holds his feet to the fire. Rather, it’s in the poem “What Do You Write About, Where Do Your Ideas Come From,” which simply repeats his trio of subjects and adds, in Wright’s faux modest style: “The Big Empty is also a subject of note.” Wright continually fails to distance himself from his trite thoughts and phrases (—keep on keeping on,” “cut us some slack,” and the entire “After Reading Robert Graves, I Go Outside to Get My Head Together—). Another poet prominent for having endured more than anything else.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-10571-5
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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