Appalachia

Overview

Almost thirty years ago, Charles Wright (who teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Poetry) began a poetic project of astonishing scope—a series of three trilogies. The first trilogy was collected in Country Music, the second in The World of the Ten Thousand Things, and the third began with Chickamauga and continued with Black Zodiac. Appalachia is the last book in the final trilogy of this ...

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Appalachia: Poems

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Overview

Almost thirty years ago, Charles Wright (who teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Poetry) began a poetic project of astonishing scope—a series of three trilogies. The first trilogy was collected in Country Music, the second in The World of the Ten Thousand Things, and the third began with Chickamauga and continued with Black Zodiac. Appalachia is the last book in the final trilogy of this pathbreaking and majestic series.

If Country Music traced "Wright's journey from the soil to the stars" and The World of the Ten Thousand Things "lovingly detailed" our world and made "a visionary map of the world beyond" (James Longenbach, The Nation), this final book in Wright's great work reveals a master's confrontation with his own mortality and his stunning ability to discover transcendence in the most beautifully ordinary of landscapes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Has any other American poet been writing as beautifully and daringly over the past twenty-five years as Charles Wright? Possibly. But I cannot imagine who it would be. . . . [Wright] plumbs our deepest relationships with nature, time, love, death, creation."—Philip Levine, American Poet citation for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

"In an age of casual faithlessness, Wright successfully reconstitutes the provocative tension between belief and materialism."—Albert Mobilio, The Village Voice

"A significant and true reflection of our time."—Adam Kirsch, The New York Times Book Review

"A culmination of his career. . . . Appalachia shows again why Wright is generally considered one of America's leading poets."—Harold Branam, Magill's Literary Annual

"Wright, recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, is a philosopher-poet with a gift for gloriously whimsical imagery and a keen sense of the ephemeral. His inquisitive poems reside at the crux of faith and art. . . . In bright leaping lines reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a kindred spirit also enthralled by nature yet keenly aware of our isolation from it, Wright tries to connect with the spiritual by conjuring the ancient beaming of stars, winter's starkness, and the valor of flowers. Finally, in sweet, bemused surrender, he acknowledges both the impossibility of certainty, and our insatiable hunger for it."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

Boston Review
Wright&#39s . . . life&#39s work is a record of possibility discovered within persistence, of human limitation raised to the highest power. Charles Wright&#39s trilogy of trilogies-call it &#39The Appalachian Book of the Dead&#39-is sure to be counted among the great long poems of the century (James Longenbach, Boston Review).
Adam Kirsch
...The focus...is on "God...the fire my feet are held to"; on the torment of wanting to believe and finding nothing that can secure belief...
The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Last year, Wright won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Black Zodiac (LJ 4/15/97). His new work wasn't quite so lucky, but it did live up to expectations. In language that can be at once meditative and wickedly inventive, Wright explores the surreal landscape he's been mapping throughout his career in new and exciting ways. (LJ 10/1/98)
Adam Kirsch
...The focus...is on "God...the fire my feet are held to"; on the torment of wanting to believe and finding nothing that can secure belief... -- The New York Times Book Review
James Longenbach
Wright&#39s . . . life&#39s work is a record of possibility discovered within persistence, of human limitation raised to the highest power. Charles Wright&#39s trilogy of trilogies-call it &#39The Appalachian Book of the Dead&#39-is sure to be counted among the great long poems of the century.
Boston Review
Kirkus Reviews
The latest volume by the much-celebrated University of Virginia professor is the third part of Wright's third trilogy, begun with the recent Chickamauga and Black Zodiac, for which he won last year's Pulitzer Prize-and though it stands alone, this characteristic book links with the others thematically, and stylistically, as much as you can call Wright's prose phrasings a style. If not much happens musically in his watered-down Poundian collages, he does play to academic critics with his oft-stated concerns: landscape, God, and language, though he seems to have little faith in any of these. He worries about an afterlife with a dead God; finds language "our common enemy"; and is always seeking a "secret landscape behind the landscape." Many of his poems have a where and when (i.e., a place and a month), and find their way to a gee-whiz insight, a sententious pearl that's often borrowed from his readings in Asian poetry or European lite philosophers. After all these years, we come closer to Wright's simple aesthetic, but it's not in "Ars Poetic II," where he affirms his belief in a God who holds his feet to the fire. Rather, it's in the poem "What Do You Write About, Where Do Your Ideas Come From," which simply repeats his trio of subjects and adds, in Wright's faux modest style: "The Big Empty is also a subject of note." Wright continually fails to distance himself from his trite thoughts and phrases ("keep on keeping on," "cut us some slack," and the entire "After Reading Robert Graves, I Go Outside to Get My Head Together").
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374526245
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/29/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 465,880
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Wright was awarded the National Book Award in Poetry in 1983 for Country Music and the 1995 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Chickamauga. He teaches at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.

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Read an Excerpt




Excerpt

Stray Paragraphs in February, Year of the Rat


East of town, the countryside unwrinkles and smooths out
Unctuously toward the tidewater and gruff Atlantic.
A love of landscape's a true affection for regret, I've found,
Forever joined, forever apart,
                               outside us yet ourselves.
Renunciation, it's hard to learn, is now our ecstasy.
However, if God were still around,
                            he'd swallow our sighs in his nothingness.
The dregs of the absolute are slow sift in my blood,
Dead branches down after high winds, dead yard grass and
    undergrowth--
The sure accumulation of all that's not revealed
Rises like snow in my bare places,
                                     cross-whipped and openmouthed.
Our lives can't be lived in flames.
Our lives can't be lit like saints'hearts,
                            seared between heaven and earth.
February, old head-turner, cut us some slack, grind of bone
On bone, such melancholy music.
Lift up that far corner of landscape,
                                        there, toward the west.
Let some of the deep light in, the arterial kind.


Stray Paragraphs in April, Year of the Rat


Only the dead can be born again, and then not much.
I wish I were a mole in the ground,
                                     eyes that see in the dark.
Attentive without an object of attentiveness,
Unhappy without an object of unhappiness--
Desire in its highest form,
                            dog prayer, diminishment ...
If we were to walk for a hundred years, we could never take
One step toward heaven--
                         you have to wait to be gathered.
Two cardinals, two blood clots,
Cast loose in the cold, invisible arteries of the air.
If they ever stop, the sky will stop.
Affliction's a gift, Simone Weil thought--
The world becomes more abundant in severest light.
April, old courtesan, high-styler of months, dampen our mouths.
The dense and moist and cold and dark come together here.
The soul is air, and it maintains us.
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Table of Contents

Stray Paragraphs in February, Year of the Rat 3
Stray Paragraphs in April, Year of the Rat 4
Basic Dialogue 5
Star Turn 7
A Bad Memory Makes You a Metaphysician, a Good One Makes You a Saint 8
Thinking about the Poet Larry Levis One Afternoon in Late May 9
In the Kingdom of the Past, the Brown-Eyed Man Is King 10
Passing the Morning under the Serenissima 11
Venetian Dog 12
In the Valley of the Magra 14
Returned to the Yaak Cabin, I Overhear an Old Greek Song 15
Ars Poetica II 16
Cicada Blue 17
All Landscape Is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself 19
Opus Posthumous 20
What Do You Write About, Where Do Your Ideas Come From? 23
Quotations 24
The Appalachian Book of the Dead II 26
Indian Summer II 27
Autumn's Sidereal, November's a Ball and Chain 29
The Writing Life 30
Reply to Wang Wei 31
Giorgio Morandi and the Talking Eternity Blues 33
Drone and Ostinato 35
Ostinato and Drone 36
"It's Turtles All the Way Down" 37
Half February 38
Back Yard Boogie Woogie 39
The Appalachian Book of the Dead III 40
Opus Posthumous II 41
Body Language 45
"When You're Lost in Juarez, in the Rain, and It's Eastertime Too" 46
The Appalachian Book of the Dead IV 47
Spring Storm 49
Early Saturday Afternoon, Early Evening 50
"The Holy Ghost Asketh for Us with Mourning and Weeping Unspeakable" 51
The Appalachian Book of the Dead V 53
Star Turn II 55
After Reading Tao Ch'ing, I Wander Untethered Through the Short Grass 56
Remembering Spello, Sitting Outside in Prampolini's Garden 57
After Rereading Robert Graves, I Go Outside to Get My Head Together 59
American Twilight 60
The Appalachian Book of the Dead VI 61
Landscape as Metaphor, Landscape as Fate and a Happy Life 62
Opus Posthumous III 64
Notes 67
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