James Wright

Cooper's_Hawk_2

Lying in a Hammock at a Friend’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind Duffy’s empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken-hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

I’ve always loved this poem and recently I came across this comment by the poet Henri Cole that sums up exactly how I feel about it:

 The simplified beauty of his language and its truth-telling seem to me as enduring as classical Chinese poetry.

The Paris Review no 26 1961

11 thoughts on “James Wright

      1. Yes — I hadn’t read it before (and in fact, I have only thought of Carver as a fiction writer). It has a very haiku quality to it, and to me feels less grim than Wright’s ending. Although both, I guess, suggest that opportunities remain, to do as Rilke suggests and change your life. If it needs, on reflection, to change?

    1. That’s an interesting comparison, but the two poems seem to me to go in different directions- this one, seeing the road not taken, and the Archaic Torso a kind of call to action.

  1. I have always loved this poem too,

    “I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
    A chicken-hawk floats over, looking for home.
    I have wasted my life.”

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