Musings upon learning that today would have been the 90th birthday of James Arlington Wright, had he lived beyond 1980.


Happy 90th Birthday to James Wright.

An award winning poet who was writing during the peak of the Beat generation, but remained outside of that movement.  He is influenced by Spanish Surrealist poetry, and he was a translator of German and South American poetry.

If you come across his poetry it is fun just to read the titles alone.  He has written poems called:  “In response to a rumor that the oldest whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, has been condemned”  and “Depressed by a book of bad poetry, I walk toward an unused pasture and invite the insects to join me”.  The first of these is quite a damning condemnation of the town of Bridgeport, Ohio and I doubt the people of that town have much time for Wright.  He grew up in Ohio and appears to have had an unhappy childhood, so he does not love Ohio.

As well as interesting titles he delivers some great last lines.  This has an OK title and a brilliant finale.

It is called

Lying in a hammock at William Duffy’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 the 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.