She’s certainly bewitched me
with her innocent airs.
As light as blown glass, her figure,
her bearing seems like a figure off a screen.
But she instantly frees herself
from the glossy lacquer background.
This little butterfly flutters and
settles with such silent grace,
That I am overtaken by the urge to pursue her,
Even if I have to tear off her wings.
At the end of a dark corridor
There is a lit match in a trembling hand
“I still have stage fright,”
The beautiful woman says,
And then she leads us past wardrobes
With mirrors and creaking doors
Where whispering dresses hang,
Whispering corsets, button shoes –
The kind you’d wear while riding a goat.
Charles Wright is a master of the meditative, image-driven lyric,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in an announcement Thursday. “For almost 50 years his poems have reckoned with what he calls ‘language, landscape, and the idea of God.’ Wright’s body of work combines a Southern sensibility with an allusive expansiveness, for moments of singular musicality.
I’ve often recounted the story of how the only compliment Mr. Wright ever gave me as an undergraduate poetry student was a verbal thumbs up toward a new pair of cowboy boots I’d just purchased.
The truth is, I never had the honor of learning in his workshop, but only hounded him during office hours, hoping that our shared rural Southern heritage would precipitate some sort of mutual understanding. Instead he remarked that my first published poem was a pop song, and we spent a few hours discussing country music. No complaints. Because ever since, I’ve learned as much from this book as I have from any other, and feel confident that he’d now respect my improved tastes in music and cowboy boots.
Congratulations to Mr. Wright, for whom I’d still stand on Charles Simic‘s coffee table and declare as America’s greatest living poet.