In these six groups of poems, Charles Wright turns again and with still greater intensity to themes that have continued to propel his work: language's mysteries, landscape's numinosity, and the idea of God underlying them both. A collection of intense moments used as lenses through which to see the world beyond them, Chickamauga is a virtuoso exploration of the power of concision in lyric poetry and of the flexible music of the long line Wright has made his own.
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In these six groups of poems, Charles Wright turns again and with still greater intensity to themes that have continued to propel his work: language's mysteries, landscape's numinosity, and the idea of God underlying them both. A collection of intense moments used as lenses through which to see the world beyond them, Chickamauga is a virtuoso exploration of the power of concision in lyric poetry and of the flexible music of the long line Wright has made his own.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In subject matter, many poems in the six varied-length sections here are akin to haiku: meditations that connect breaths of spirituality to pinpoints in time and space-details of a landscape, season, time of day. But Wright who won the 1983 National Book Award for poetry gives his observations a more intimate, personal turn with his conversational voice, which carries subtle King James Bible cadences in long lines swept in broken segments across the page. His concern here is ``the two-hearted sorrow of middle-age''; as his attention shifts from the works of T.S. Eliot and Lao Tzu, to a dwindling orchard, to memories of Italy, there is an underlying sense that some search is over, that objects or events once inspiring now simply add to ``the shadow that everything casts.'' Punctuating such sombre ruminations are images of sudden, fearsome flames: ``My life, this shirt I want to take off, which is on fire....'' The strain of these extremes often stretches the poetry to abstraction, but often, as in ``Expectantly empty, green as a pocket, the meadow waits/ For the wind to rise and fill it,'' the themes of absence and loss are measured in the precisely distilled images for which Wright is known. Apr.
Library Journal
Wright is one of those rare and gifted poets who can turn thought into music. Following his self-prescribed regimen of purgatio, illuminato, and contemplatio, Wright spins one lovely lyric after another on such elemental subjects as sky, trees, birds, months, and seasons. But the real subject is the thinking process itself and the mysterious alchemy of language: "The world is a language we never quite understand." But Wright's metaphors are readily grasped: an "epaulet of stars," the "hat/of daylight," the "dead script of vines," an "oil-rag American sky," or "fall's early chemotherapy." The beauty of these poems-with their echoes of Wallace Stevens and Theodore Roethke-is hard won. Under the joyful act of composition lies "the heart's arctic," and the poet listens closely to "what the darkness says." Each poem celebrates a precious aesthetic fact-"one the in a world of a." Highly recommended for all collections.-Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.
From the Publisher
"In his generation, the generation of Ashbery, Rich, Ammons, Ginsberg, Plath, and Merrill, Wright is perhaps closest to Plath in his intensity of the image, closest to Ammons in his sense of the sidereal. But he sounds like nobody else, and he has remained faithful to insights and intuitions—of darkness as of light—less than common in contemporary America."—Helen Vendler, The New Republic

"Chickamauga marks a new turning point in Wright's career . . . Like [Wallace] Stevens's The Rock, Chickamauga is the result of a self-consciously imposed limitation . . . Most of Wright's new poems fit neatly on one page, and, if anything, each poem seems more gorgeous than the one preceding it . . . Wright's turn toward smaller poems is the result of a metaphysical as well as formal dilemma . . . [It] is a beautiful book, bearably human yet in touch with the sublime; I would not want to be deprived of any of its poems. But I can't help wondering what Charles Wright—who must be thought of as one of our living masters—could possibly do next."—James Longenbach, The Yale Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374524814
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 836,627
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize, teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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Table of Contents

Sitting Outside at the End of Autumn 3
Lines After Rereading T. S. Eliot 4
Reading Lao Tzu Again in the New Year 6
Under the Nine Trees in January 8
After Reading Wang Wei, I Go Outside to the Full Moon 9
Easter 1989 10
Reading Rorty and Paul Celan One Morning in Early June 12
After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard 15
Thinking of David Summers at the Beginning of Winter 16
Cicada 17
Tennessee Line 19
Looking Outside the Cabin Window, I Remember a Line by Li Po 21
Mid-winter Snowfall in the Piazza Dante 25
Sprung Narratives 27
Lines on Seeing a Photograph for the First Time in Thirty Years 36
Broken English 41
Maple on the Hill 42
Black and Blue 44
Chickamauga 47
Still Life on a Matchbox Lid 51
Blaise Pascal Lip-syncs the Void 52
Winter-Worship 53
The Silent Generation 54
An Ordinary Afternoon in Charlottesville 55
Tom Strand and the Angel of Death 56
Mondo Angelico 57
Mondo Henbane 58
Miles Davis and Elizabeth Bishop Fake the Break 59
Peccatology 60
East of the Blue Ridge, Our Tombs Are in the Dove's Throat 61
"Not everyone can see the truth, but he can be it" 62
As Our Bodies Rise, Our Names Turn into Light 63
Absence Inside an Absence 64
Still Life with Spring and Time to Burn 66
Morandi II 67
With Simic and Marinetti at the Giubbe Rosse 68
To the Egyptian Mummy in the Etruscan Museum at Cortona 69
With Eddie and Nancy in Arezzo at the Caffe Grande 71
There Is No Shelter 72
Watching the Equinox Arrive in Charlottesville, September 1992 75
Waiting for Tu Fu 78
Paesaggio Notturno 83
Still Life with Stick and Word 84
Summer Storm 85
Looking West from Laguna Beach at Night 86
Looking Again at What I Looked At for Seventeen Years 87
Looking Across Laguna Canyon at Dusk, West-by-Northwest 88
Venexia I 89
Venexia II 90
Yard Work 92
Notes 95
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