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To a blossoming pear tree by James Wright

To a blossoming pear tree by James Wright


New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. Stated "First Edition, 1977" on the copyright page. Hardcover. 62 pages ; 22 cm. $7.95 dust jacket, with a few rips and tears to jacket cover. Dog ear on page 30. Binding is firm. Pages are free of markings.

In these poems and prose pieces, James Wright, winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, tells us of forests, cities, and waters.

The Loire flows past a World War II gun emplacement, while the moon shines on a snail on Max Jacob's grave and lovers in a haystack. The Adige curves about Verona, birthplace of Catullus: "A dark city on one shore, / And, on the other, / A dark forest."

The author lights a candle for W. H. Auden in the church of Maria am Gestade, built on the banks of a branch of the Danube. Now the water is gone, and "Vienna scrambles to keep its trees." For Pablo Neruda, "The leaves of the little / Secret trees are fallen."

There is life in these waters and trees. Piccolini swim off Sirmione; a moorhen and her eight young float on a small brook; and an old man with green moon-slime on his shoes climbs up from the canals of Venice. Four kinds of animals, alien to each other, make homes in the saguaro cactus. The polluted Mississippi may still wash up the bodies of old men, but a young Indian with a hook for a hand is fighting for life by its shore. He puts sixty-five cents in the living hand of another man and it is accepted.

Writing about James Wright's Collected Poems in The New York Times Book Review, Peter A. Stitt said: "Our age desperately needs his vision of brotherly love, his transcendent sense of nature, and the clarity of his courageous voice . . . James Wright is among the masters of our day."

Of course, James Wright has in fact slipped into our national midst. He is as removed from many of us as is Tunica County, yet he is so close to just about every American that it hurts to read him: too much of our lives is there in those lives. Mirrors block every exit we try. He is in central Ohio, closer to ordinary working people (a son of his father) than quite a few who go under the name Simone Weil said they deserve—"intellectuals." He is in the Dakotas or Minnesota, near the Sioux and near the farm people. He is in Nevada, where gamblers cry out their own kind of hunger; and in the big cities, Chicago and New York; and finally, in Europe, where he can't stop looking back, leaping across the ocean, and where he is unable to free himself of himself, of us. Robert Coles, The American Poetry Review

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