Wheeling Motel

Wheeling Motel

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by Franz Wright

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In his tenth collection of poetry, Franz Wright gives us an exquisite book of reconciliation with the past and acceptance of what may come in the future.

From his earliest years, he writes in “Will,” he had “the gift of impermanence / so I would be ready, / accompanied / by a rage to prove them wrong / . . . and that I too was worthy of love.


In his tenth collection of poetry, Franz Wright gives us an exquisite book of reconciliation with the past and acceptance of what may come in the future.

From his earliest years, he writes in “Will,” he had “the gift of impermanence / so I would be ready, / accompanied / by a rage to prove them wrong / . . . and that I too was worthy of love.” This rage comes coupled with the poet’s own brand of love, what he calls “one / strange alone / heart’s wish / to help all / hearts.” Poetry is indeed Wright’s help, and he delivers it to us with a wry sense of the daily in America: in his wonderfully local relationship to God (whom he encounters along with a catfish in the emerald shallows of Walden Pond); in the little West Virginia motel of the title poem, on the banks of the great Ohio River, where “Tammy Wynette’s on the marquee” and he is visited by the figure of Walt Whitman, “examining the tear on a dead face.”

Here, in Wheeling Motel, Wright’s poetry continues to surprise us with its frank appraisal of our soul, and with his own combustible loneliness and unstoppable joy.

Editorial Reviews

Daisy Fried
Franz Wright is uningratiating, bumptiously witty, inexhaustibly joyless and routinely surprising. Individual moments—this line break, that bit of syntax—fascinate even when individual poems fail to assert themselves as memorable. But Wright's dark epiphanies, surging sincerities and ironic outbursts build incrementally from poem to poem…Wright's poems sometimes feel insufficient, but also, in that insufficiency, authentic. Is there really any such thing as reconciliation? the poet seems to ask, even as he yearns for reconciliation. Anyone else might have come to terms with this quandary years ago. But poetry, like quandaries, should be unsolvable. What's bothersome about Franz Wright is what keeps his poetry alive, and makes him worth coming back and back to.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Once more the Pulitzer Prize–winning Wright (God's Silence) delves into his own exceptionally troubled past and comes up with fractured and frightening—but also well-constructed and self-aware—poems about his former addictions, his inner depths and his recovery, giving thanks to his wife and to the Christian God. “I don't want to see a doctor/ I want to kill a doctor,” one poem opens. “And this is my alone/ song, it isn't/ long.” Wright's poetry of extremes has attracted both a wide audience and a sophisticated one: he speaks with terse authority about religious transcendence, crushing and even suicidal depression and well-known drug troubles—”Pretty soon you won't be doing that to get high./ You'll be doing it to get dressed.” If this collection differs from earlier volumes, it is in the kind and degree of attention that Wright pays to his father, the poet James Wright: “There's this line in an unpublished poem of yours./ The river is like that,/ a blind familiar.” Family matters, like much else, give Wright bleak grief: he turns, as he has often done in recent years, to religious faith, exploring his doubts but returning to his belief: “The world didn't give me this/ word, but// the world cannot take it away.” (Sept.)
Library Journal
A son who follows in the footsteps of his father must acknowledge parental influence even as he struggles to create work that is formally and stylistically distinct. In his poetry (e.g., Walking to Martha's Vineyard), Wright has long alluded to his troubled relationship with his father, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Wright, and this volume is peppered with similar references. The elder Wright showed an affinity for outcasts in his work, and the narrators of Franz Wright's poetry seem determined to embody those qualities that so fascinated the father. This work relates harrowing tales of mental breakdown and substance abuse in a tone that is almost confessional, and the poem's protagonists often view the external world as a malign force to be resisted or overcome by sheer will. Wright's language is at once wry and talky, at times very powerful, but the effect is uneven; sometimes the poems come across as self-absorbed. VERDICT Both bleak and intensely personal, this book will appeal to those with a taste for tragedy.—Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO
From the Publisher
“These new poems refract the light of the poet’s insightful, humorous, and often humble gaze in ways that are surprising and rewarding.” —America

“Uningratiating, bumptiously witty . . . and routinely surprising.” —The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Wheeling Motel

The vast waters flow past its backyard.
You can purchase a six- pack in bars!
Tammy Wynette’s on the marquee

a block down. It’s twenty- five years ago:
you went to death, I to life, and
which was luckier God only knows.

There’s this line in an unpublished poem of yours.
The river is like that,
a blind familiar.

The wind will die down when I say so;
the leaden and lessening light on
the current.

Then the moon will rise
like the word reconciliation,
like Walt Whitman examining the tear on a dead face.

Day One
Good morning class. Today
we’re going to be discussing
the deplorable adventures
of Franz Wright and his gory flute.
Just kidding. The topic this morning

is an unparaphrasable logic constructed
from parallelisms and images
and held together, on
occasion, by nothing
but the magical non sequitur—

but the hell with that.
We should really examine
your life, the one you bought,
and what happened when you got home
and attempted to assemble it:

that disfiguring explosion
no one witnessed, no one heard,
which you yourself cannot recall,
and by whose unimaginable light you seek
to write the name of beauty.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Franz Wright’s recent works include Earlier Poems, God’s Silence, and The Beforelife (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). In 2004 his Walking to Martha’s Vineyard received the Pulitzer Prize. He has been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, among other honors. He currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, the translator and writer Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.

From the Hardcover edition.

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