7
"To die a good death means to live one's life"

James Wright died of cancer of the tongue on March 25, 1980. This Journey, "more or less" completed by Wright before he died, was published by Wright's executrix and wife, Anne, in 1982. 1 I would like to focus on two striking facts about this final volume. The first is that the book is filled with insistent echoes of earlier poems and attitudes, revised now in the "lighter" spirit of To a Blossoming Pear Tree. The point is not to deny those earlier, younger words (for "He will not deny, he will not deny his own," Saint Judas) but to refine them of their anger and doubt--to acknowledge the facts of life the words point to but to alter the poet's reaction to those facts from rejection and despair to acceptance and hope. Despite his lifelong confrontation with life's horrors, he has managed to do nothing to diminish them. Yet while struggling to overcome what cannot be overcome-- humankind's flaws, too numerous and too well known to be listed here, but numbering among them greed, selfishness, willful destruction of beauty, and complacent ignorance--Wright managed, in the process traced by this study, to transform his resistance into acceptance, of others and of himself, his own darkness, his own mortality. As I said in the last chapter, this acceptance, the subtle other side of resistance, strengthened the poet, enlarged his self and his self's

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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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