Charles Wright has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. He has nothing to prove, and his poetry reveals his independence and eccentric elegance. Littlefoot, Wright’s 18th book, takes on memory and loss; mortality; writing; landscape; inner and outer weather. The book-length poem has a long, slow, floating quality. It discourses on time’s ravages and gifts.
It may not be written in any book, but it is written —
You can’t go back.
Littlefoot is inhabited by birds, mountains, clouds, and trees more than people. It instructs us like the Tao Te Ching laced with American grief. “But nature is not sincere, nor is it insincere.” We must not “be negligent, / So that our hearts end up like diamonds, and not roots.” Gorgeous imagery occupies every page. “Deer huddle?then burst like flames in the air.” Wright depicts “the Chinese vocabulary of the grasses,” “the dark bandages of dusk.” He wields color like a master painter — “poppies along the near hill glisten like small fires, / Pink and orange and damp red.” Yet the poet worries that he hasn’t done enough.” “All I have left undone, I hope someone will make good / in this life or the next.” Littlefoot begins and ends in autumn, transforming melancholy to praise-song, “Praise for the left-over and over-looked, / praise for the left hand / And the horse with one lame leg.” It is a hymn composed of “pennywhistle music” and silence “here under the latches of Paradise.”