Confession Wednesday… in which I invoke Charles Wright

crowI confess that I’ve been tied to my day “gig” this week, and I just haven’t had time to be with my blog. Hence, Confession Wednesday instead of Tuesday! This is a particularly stressful time of year for secondary educators – not much time remaining with a whole lot of material left to cover, and the students are either a) as mentally exhausted as the teachers, or b) not in school because of band trips, drama trips, shopping trips, etc., or c) sitting in our classrooms wishing that the weather and the teachers would get nicer. I’ve been struggling to grade the papers that piled up during the five days that I was in Denver for AWP. I know, how much could accrue in five days? Well, considering that I spend approximately three to five hours grading each day, I think that I’ve got about ten hours of grading pile-up left to deal with.

I confess that I understand that you probably don’t care about this and would rather that I just got on with talking about poetry.

I confess that yesterday I was struck by the grace of my students. I am the student council adviser and last night the student council hosted a Talent Show/Oscar Night. I watched gawky adolescents try to put their best foot forward on stage, but also the magic of students supporting each other. Every performance got a raucous reception. Afterward, the students helped clean up, all the while chatting about the dancing and singing and movie-making of their peers. Grace, for me to see another side of them, an engaged, kind, supportive side.

And speaking of grace, now I turn to poetry. That grace, including the idea of spaciousness, has been a writing goal of mine for several years. I try to cultivate room for surprise and grace to take me in unfamiliar directions. Lately I have been doing this by posing odd questions, questions meant to put together disparate yet resonant ideas. The quote from my notebook in my last entry, “Whose name is gunshot weather?” is an example of this idea. My hope is to open myself up to connections existing deep within images and memories, but perhaps not on the surface. An expert in this is the poet Li-Young Lee. Another poet that I’ve been reading lately that also employs this technique is Charles Wright.

I admit that I’m late the Charles Wright party. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award winner that has been publishing on a continual basis for the last forty years. More than a month ago, someone on Facebook (could have been the Alaskan poet Jeff Oliver, I have a fuzzy recollection of that) recommended Buffalo Yoga. So, for the last month I’ve been returning to this book, re-reading poems, and marveling at their grace, as well as their invocation of landscape and loss.

Below is one of my favorites from the book. I highly recommend that everyone get their own copy and be prepared to be blown out of your ordinary perception of this world. (I apologize for the spacing; indentation and single-spaced lines don’t play well together in html.)

There Is a Balm in Gilead by Charles Wright

Crows in a caterwaul on the limb-laced edge of the afternoon,

Three scored like black notes in the bare oak across the street.

The past is a thousand-mile view I can’t quite see the end of.

Heart-halved, I stare out the window to ease its medicine in.


Landscape’s a local affliction that has no beginning and no end,

Here when we come and here when we go.

Like white clouds, our poems drift over it,

looking for somewhere to lie low.

They neither hinder nor help.


Night sky black water,

reservoir crow-black and sky black,

Starless and Godless.

Cars trundle like glowworms across the bridge, angel-eyed,


The fish in the waters of heaven gleam like knives.


I write, as I said before, to untie myself, to stand clear,

To extricate an absence,

the ultimate hush of language,

(fricative, verb, and phoneme),

The silence that turns the silence off.


Butt-end of January, leaf-ash and unclaimed snow,

Cold blue of blue jay cutting down to the feeder box,

The morning lit with regret,

No trace of our coming, no trace of our going back.

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One Reply to “Confession Wednesday… in which I invoke Charles Wright”

  1. Yes! Charles Wright rules! Other Wright collections worth the time and money are “Scar Tissue,” “The World of Ten Thousand Things; Poems 1980 -1990,” “Chickamauga,” “Appalachia,” “Black Zodiac,” “Littlefoot,” the list goes on. His most current collection is called “Sestets.” Wright is a master at interweaving the interior world with the exterior. He questions, he wonders. He provides no answers and I love that. His compositions of idea, self-examinaton and the natural world have moved me to tears. Don’t miss Wright.

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