Monday, June 16, 2014

U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright: 'Nothing Prepares the Brain'

I have a document in my home computer that I've named "Brilliant Lines." These are lines of poetry
I've typed in from favorite collections on my shelves. When Davidson graduate Charles Wright
was named U.S. Poet Laureate last week, I opened that file and was not surprised to see
that almost half the "brilliant lines" are from his collections.
Wright majored in history at Davidson, and he's told interviewers over the years
that he wanted to write fiction in college -- his mother had dated one of William Faulkner's
brothers -- but Wright discovered he was likely the only Southerner who couldn't tell a story.
When Wright was in Italy, he happened on "The Selected Poems of Ezra Pound," and,
as he once told the Paris Review, "I discovered a form that seemed suited to my mental
and emotional inclinations—the lyric poem, a form, or subgenre, I guess, that didn’t depend
on a narrative structure, but on an imagistic one, an associational one. 'Gists
and piths,' as they say, instead of the intricacy of narrative a line."
Here are some lines of Wright's from my "Brilliant Lines" file: 
Nothing prepares the brain 
        for the heavy changes in the heart. 
Nothing prepares the soul for metaphor’s sleight-of-hand.
Nothing prepares the left hand -- luminous twin -- for the sins
    of the right. 
Nothing prepares the absence of pain for the presence of pain. 
Nothing prepares what is for what’s not. 
“Night Rider,” from the collection, “A Short History of the Shadow"