3
"Look: I am nothing"

The first title we come across in The Branch Will Not Break ( 1963)1 is eighteen words long ( "As I Step over a Puddle at the End of Winter, I Think of an Ancient Chinese Governor") and describes an event, not a subject. What has happened to "The Ghost," "The Refusal," "The Alarm," or "The Accusation"? Confused but undaunted, we press on, determined to survey the territory. Readers who turn directly from Saint Judas to Branch can be excused for feeling for a moment like readers who come upon the opening sentence of Kafka "The Metamorphosis": "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." We see we have entered an alien land and instinctively stop, look around, and ask ourselves what the characteristics and rules of this new world are. We search for laws to explain what, in our familiar world, is unexpected, to say the least, and perhaps inexplicable. Nothing looks the same; the landscape is so disorganized. The old signposts of rhyme, meter, predictable line length, and consistent stanza length are gone. We find ourselves "lost in the thicket," as many of Wright's characters are, with the smoothed paths of orderly verse nowhere to be seen. The final few poems of Saint Judas prepared us for a change, a new voice, but not for the change in style

-67-

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The Poetry of James Wright
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Had You Been Strong Enough to Dare"" 8
  • 2 - My Name is James A. Wright "" 37
  • 3 - Look: I Am Nothing"" 67
  • 4 - And You Bear It"" 110
  • 5 - That Brutal and Savage Place Whom I Still Love"" 144
  • 6 - I Call It Beauty"" 174
  • 7 - To Die a Good Death Means to Live One's Life"" 209
  • Notes 237
  • Bibliography 253
  • Index 267
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