Above the River: The Complete Poems

Overview

One of the most admired American poets of his generation, James Wright (1927-80) wrote contemplative, sturdy, and generous poems with an honesty, clarity, and stylistic range matched by very few—then or now. From his Deep Image-inspired lyrics to his Whtimanesque renderings of Neruda, Vallejo, and other Latin American poets, and from his heartfelt reflections on life, love, and loss in his native Ohio to the celebrated prose poems (set frequently in Italy) that marked the end of his important career, Above the ...

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Overview

One of the most admired American poets of his generation, James Wright (1927-80) wrote contemplative, sturdy, and generous poems with an honesty, clarity, and stylistic range matched by very few—then or now. From his Deep Image-inspired lyrics to his Whtimanesque renderings of Neruda, Vallejo, and other Latin American poets, and from his heartfelt reflections on life, love, and loss in his native Ohio to the celebrated prose poems (set frequently in Italy) that marked the end of his important career, Above the River gathers the complete work of a modern master. It also features a moving and insightful introduction by Donald Hall, Wright's longtime friend and colleague.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lucidity, precision, rhythmical poise, sentiment, intelligence, and the rigors of a conscious craft that liberated the imagination—these were the poetic values James Wright cherished, and they remain the keynotes of Above the River, a splendid new edition of his work. . . . His best poems, with their grace and intelligence, not only stand as a rebuke to most of the glib work of his time, but remain among the finest examples of the midcentury American lyric. His poems continue, as a phrase from one of them puts it, to break into blossom."—J.D. McClatchy, The New York Times Book Review

"What makes him great is his constant openheartedness: he is not self-absorbed. His work explores a full range of feeling; he found much to celebrate and praise as well as to lament; he affirmed the good in life however limited."—Karen Whitehall, The Virginia Quarterly Review

"A tough and touching poet who, while never relinquishing his Midwestern roots, found ways to grow as a poet, with a deepening sense of tradition and of the nature of the factory he labored in."—Christopher Benfey, The New Republic

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wright (1927-1980) has enjoyed a widespread influence on American poets; this collection of his life's work eloquently shows why. Born to a working-class family in Ohio, Wright was educated at Kenyon College, and though he traveled to Europe and lived in New York City, in his poetry he returned in an often elegiac mode to his industrially marred but still suggestive native Midwestern landscape. Writing with a ``lonely wisdom'' of life's fragility, Wright has few peers; his regrets over the limits of mortality, love and language are tempered, with utmost tenderness, by a sympathetic willingness to experience and endure. In purity of image, rhythm and solitariness of tone, Wright reflects the work of his admired Theodore Roethke and Edgar Arlington Robinson, as well as that of Robert Frost, but the aura of delicately wistful dreaming evoked in matchless free verse is his alone. In this collection, readers can handily compare Wright's early formal poems with his later, more fluid style; sandwiched in are his translations of work by Cesar Vallejo, Pablo Neruda and others. (May)
Library Journal
Wright is one of the most influential poets of our time, and this volume reflects 40 years' work. As a young man, and a Yale Younger poet (1957), he embraced traditional forms even while addressing nontraditional subject matter: ``When I went out to kill myself, I caught/ A pack of hoodlums beating up a man.'' The true power of Wright's poetry is most obvious in his free verse, where simple images and ``the pure clean word'' were all he needed to capture the almost unbearable tension between deathward suffering and the desire to endure, to love, and to accept the world's pleasures: ``Suddenly I realize/That if I stepped out of my body I would break/ Into blossom.'' Wright's later poems are his best, a blend of pictures and sound, but whether he is writing tight iambs about his hometown in Ohio, free and daring lines about cold Minnesota, or even prose poems celebrating his Italian summers, his is ``The poetry of a grown man.'' Essential for all serious collections.-- Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
Booknews
Wright (1927-1980) is one of the most significant, most enduring voices in postwar American poetry, the central figure of a talented generation. This volume contains all of Wright's poetry as well as his translations and selected prose pieces. With a memoir and critical introduction by his friend and fellow poet, Donald Hall. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374522827
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/28/1992
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 217,421
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Poetry collections by James Wright include The Green Wall (1957), which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, Saint Judas (1959), The Branch Will Not Break (1963), Shall We Gather at the River (1968), and Two Citizens (1973). Wright was elected a fellow of The Academy of American Poets in 1971, and the following year his Collected Poems received the Pulitzer Prize. He died in New York City in 1980, having served on the English faculties at the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, and Hunter College (CUNY).

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