Walking to Martha's Vineyard

( 4 )


In this radiant new collection, Franz Wright shares his regard for life in all its forms and his belief in the promise of blessing and renewal. As he watches the “Resurrection of the little apple tree outside / my window,” he shakes off his fear of mortality, concluding “what death . . . There is only / mine / or yours,– / but the world / will be filled with the living.” In prayerlike poems he invokes the one “who spoke the world / into being” and celebrates a dazzling universe–snowflakes descending at nightfall,...

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Walking to Martha's Vineyard

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In this radiant new collection, Franz Wright shares his regard for life in all its forms and his belief in the promise of blessing and renewal. As he watches the “Resurrection of the little apple tree outside / my window,” he shakes off his fear of mortality, concluding “what death . . . There is only / mine / or yours,– / but the world / will be filled with the living.” In prayerlike poems he invokes the one “who spoke the world / into being” and celebrates a dazzling universe–snowflakes descending at nightfall, the intense yellow petals of the September sunflower, the planet adrift in a blizzard of stars, the simple mystery of loving other people. As Wright overcomes a natural tendency toward loneliness and isolation, he gives voice to his hope for “the only animal that commits suicide,” and, to our deep pleasure, he arrives at a place of gratitude that is grounded in the earth and its moods.

Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
...Wright's poems work immediately, electrically, or they do not work at all: repeated rereadings produce neither hidden depths nor secret structures -- nor do they make the poems seem less sincere. Wright offers a very restricted range of experience -- all extremes, all the time -- and a restricted style to match; within it, though, he can discover a spiritual yearning, and a visceral power, which few poets now working can match. — Stephen Burt
Publishers Weekly
Terse and consistent, Wright's 15th book (and second from Knopf) returns to the haunted territory of The Beforelife (2001) with a wider range of formal tools. Heartfelt but often cryptic poems, split into short, sometimes even single-line stanzas, explore the poet's troubled romantic life, his self-destructive past, his attraction to a Christian God and his difficult memories of his father-influential American poet James Wright (1927-1980). The younger Wright can deliver a lucid analogy in a single line ("We were/ about as useful as a hammer and nail made of gold"), or stop short in epistemological doubt: "The seeing see only this world." Some poems address James Wright directly ("At ten/ I turned you into a religion"); others take up, laconically and often powerfully, a history of substance abuse and mental illness: "Risperdal whisperdoll// all alone in the dark/ garden." "Letter" bluntly ties the speaker's Christian seeking to his sense of human loneliness: "I keep my eyes fixed on the great naked corpse, the vertical corpse/ who is said to be love/ and who spoke the world/ into being before coming here/ to be tortured and executed by it." Wright's work relies on the force of affect and personality, more than on any particular formal choice; his use of fragments can recall Jean Valentine or Donald Revell, while his psychological probing can call to mind Frank Bidart. His best work may be his least typical, as in the rhyming "Auto-Lullaby," but fans will find Wright's self-diagnostics moving throughout. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375710018
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/5/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 206,870
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Franz Wright was born in Vienna in 1953 and grew up in the Northwest, the Midwest, and Northern California. His most recent works include The Beforelife (which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and Ill Lit: Selected & New Poems. He has been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the PEN/Voelcker Prize, among other honors. He works at the Edinburg Center for Mental Health and the Center for Grieving Children and Teenagers and lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, Elizabeth.

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Read an Excerpt

"Walking to Martha’s Vineyard"

And the ocean smells like lilacs in late August–how is that.

The light there muted (silver) as remembered light.

Do you have any children?

No, lucky for them.

Bad things happen when you get hands, dolphin.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing?

There is no down or up in space or in the womb.

If they’d stabbed me to death on the day I was born, it would have been an act of mercy.

Like the light the last room, the windowless room at the end, must look out on. Gold-tinged, blue

vapor trail breaking up now like the white line you see,
after driving all day, when your eyes close;

vapor trail breaking up now between huge clouds resembling a kind of Mt. Rushmore of your parents’ faces.

And these untraveled windy back roads here–cotton leaves blowing past me, in the long blue horizontal light–

if I am on an island, how is it they go on forever.

This sky like an infinite tenderness, I have caught glimpses of that, often, so often, and never yet have
I described it, I can’t, somehow, I never will.

How is it that I didn’t spend my whole life being happy, loving other human beings’ faces.

And wave after wave, the ocean smells like lilacs in late August.

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Table of Contents

Year One 3
On Earth 4
One Heart 5
Octaves 6
June Storm 7
The Word 8
The First Supper 10
Promise 11
Fathers 12
To John Wieners: Elegy & Response 14
Flight 16
Medjugorje 19
My Place 20
Study in Acid & Green 21
Antipsychotic 22
Old Story 23
Cloudless Snowfall 24
Shaving in the Dark 25
Registration of Names 27
5:00 Mass 28
Dudley Wright 29
University of One 30
Slip 31
Domesticity 32
Little Farm on the Ocean 33
Untitled ("She undress ...") 34
The Bird Bride 36
The Maker 37
Letter 38
Abandoned Letter 40
Saying 42
Baptism 44
April Orchard 46
Circle Drawn in Water 48
Weekend in the Underworld 50
Charlottesville Winter 51
Reunion 52
Auto-Lullaby 54
Childhood's Appointment 55
September Sunflower 57
P.S. 59
The Word "I" 60
How You Will Know Me 62
The New Jerusalem 63
Quest 64
Epitaph 65
The Poem 66
Diary Otherwise Empty 67
Icon From Childhood 68
The New Child 69
Walden 70
Walking to Martha's Vineyard 71
The Only Animal 73
Acknowledgments 77
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2007

    Lovely Poetry

    In the book of poems titled Walking to Martha¿s Vineyard, Franz Wright will surely ponder reader¿s minds everywhere. There is a constant theme involving spirituality throughout his poems. Often you will find his poetry calling out to a higher power or demanding faith through fear. He provides a sense of something that is hidden to the outside world that only he will ever fully understand. He keeps secrets from his audience. The spirituality woven throughout this collection of poems can be compared to Rainer Maria Rilke¿s poetry, although it is not as heavily demanding in the spiritual sense. Wright¿s actual prose can better be compared to Some Thing Black by Jacques Roubaud. Franz Wright was born in Vienna in 1953, and grew up mostly in California. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Walking to Martha¿s Vineyard and was a also finalist for his work titled The Beforelife. He currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts with his wife Elizabeth and works for the Center for Grieving Children and Teenagers. His poems are all connected in an orderly fashion that slowly moves the poetry forward with a subtle taste of satisfaction. There is no set form to his free verse and he uses punctuation for a reason, never taking it lightly. In his poem ¿Fathers,¿ Wright beautifully discusses and compares his own father and a higher power, or a heavenly father. He calls out to the creator of the stars to create a new heart in him. I believe the most beautiful stanza in the poem is right after this when he writes, ¿Homeless in Manhattan, the winter of your dying.¿ It flows so beautifully on the page. There is a constant sense of wanting to belong and to be loved. The last line reads, ¿and how often I walked to the edge of the actual river to join you.¿ It is so wonderful because it is so real. It is not known to whom he is calling out to. It could be his real father that passed away when he was a child, or the Heavenly Father. It could be both. His poem titled ¿June Storm¿ speaks about a sad journey through life ¿ always living with a question and never knowing any answers. He always ends his poems with a very solid statement that ties the entire poem together, but at the same time leaves the mind to wonder. In ¿June Storm¿ specifically he talks about how as a child and now as an adult he does not know the names of trees or birds or leaves. There is a sense of realization that comes with age and is also despised. He ends the poem in three lines saying, ¿I felt this as a child, and now I know it.¿ When reading this work of art, it is best to read it from beginning to end in order to obtain connections and meanings in their entirety. While one poem can inspire you, all of the poems can change you. Wright¿s poetry should be read by everyone, religious or not, because there is no damnation, only captivating secrets and questions among the pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2005

    In the footsteps of Rilke

    Though Franz Wright's style is more laconic that Rainer Maria Rilke's, the poet's struggle to understand life and death questions in a universe which does not readily yield pat answers is central to the work of both poets, especially the spiritual yearning in the face of existential issues -- abandonment, psychic pain, inability to resolve personal, emotional problems; though where Rilke finds transcendence through struggle, Wright finds deliverance in struggle. For years Wright has been an able translator of Rilke, and in a career than spans 30 years, Wright's work has stylistically remained near where it began: tight phrasing, disjunctive syntax, uneven lines, surprising line-breaks; but in such terseness, he has mastered the use of white space to powerfully frame a word or phrase. The strength of this book, by far Wright's best, and emotionally as candid as anything his father, the American poet James Wright wrote, (echoes of the world's tortured beauty) is as in The Beforelife, Franz Wright's previous collection, a brutal honesty in confronting his life as a poet-citizen in the minimalistic world he inhabits, formerly constricted as much by substance abuse, his wounded soul and sense of alienation -- that his groping toward spiritual truth (as he envisions it) is a welcome glimmer of what may follow. Kudos for the Pulitzer, but perhaps more so for the poet surviving his personal torments for as long as he has.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2010

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    Posted January 1, 2011

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