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.
LEAVE ME HIDDEN
I was having trouble deciding
which to watch: Night
of the Living Bloggers, or
Attack of the Neck-Brace People.
In the end I just went for a walk.
In the woods I stopped wondering why
of all trees
this one: my hand
pressed to fissures
and ridges of
bark’s hugely magnified
resting against it
a heartbeat, vast, silently
booming there deep in
my hidden leaves, blessed
underworld, thank you
Evening street of midnight blue with here and there a lighted window. Of the at home, or the possibly not. Concentrically into the air whose blue sphere gradually gives way to pure lethal space, wave after wave of a pale cadmium yellow expanding into emptiness and past the blood-brain barrier. Lamp manufactured unwittingly in the image of its maker the mind, which goes on emitting dim rays from its frail bulb of skull, from its insignificant and evidently random sector of an infinite place all its own; mind illuminating not much: seen, say, from its own frozen and excommunicated Pluto, it is nearly indistinguishable from any other. All minds are pretty much the same, they’ll tell you so themselves, but secretly each is devoted to the conviction that it is irreparably different from all the rest—in fact, it is this in which they are most fundamentally alike.
Excerpted from F by Franz Wright. Copyright © 2013 by Franz Wright. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Franz Wright’s most recent works include Wheeling Motel and Earlier Poems. Walking to Martha’s Vineyard was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, and he has also been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, among other honors. He lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, the translator and writer Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.