Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review: Scar Tissue

With the exception of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, I don't read much poetry. But after I kept seeing Charles Wright's name pop up various places, I checked Scar Tissue, his 2006 collection, out of the library. Wright, who won the Pulitzer Prize for 1998's Black Zodiac, has published 19 volumes of poetry, two since Scar Tissue.

In Scar Tissue, Wright explores nature and God, though language is also a subject here. He writes in long lines, uses inventive metaphors and regularly employs assonance. Wright's poems have a lovely lyrical quality and share observations and ideas that seem almost preternaturally wise.

Wright was born in the South and spent time in Italy both in the army and later as a Fulbright scholar. In his poems, Italian cities and landscapes intertwine with Southern ones — the two locations factor in to the theme of nostalgia that's an undercurrent in some poems and front and center in others: Nostalgia arrives like a spring storm, / Looming and large with fine flash, / Dissolving like a disease then / into the furred horizon, / Whose waters have many doors, / Whose sky has a thousand panes of glass.

Wright's work is lovely and deeply visual — it's easy to imagine someone painting a picture to match his words — but the sound of his words together is even more beautiful. It was all I could do not to read the entire collection aloud.

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