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The Beforelife

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  215 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In this stunning collection, Franz Wright chronicles the journey back from a place of isolation and wordlessness. After a period when it seemed certain he would never write poetry again, he speaks with bracing clarity about the twilit world that lies between madness and sanity, addiction and recovery. Wright negotiates the precarious transition from illness to health in a ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Knopf (first published 2001)
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Peycho Kanev

Just hope he forgot the address
and don’t answer the phone

for a week:
put out all the lights

in the house—
behave like you aren’t there

if some night when
it’s blizzarding, you see

Franz Wright arrive
on your street with his suitcase

of codeine pills,
lugging that heavy

black manuscript
of blank texts.

The sole tavern there, empty
and filled
with cigarette smoke;
the smell
of beer, urine and the infinite
sadness you dread
and need so much of
for some reason
I read this book twice in one sitting...these poems are beautiful and horrific at the same time.
I finished this today. Really liked it for its terrible honesty and rawness, its odd and striking images, and something tentative and yet "well, here it is" about it. Seemed to match life and his tortured life quite well. I hope this gave him some peace and uplift. Likewise, I hope it gave his wife some peace, as he wrote the poems for her he says on his dedication page, while tucked away, presumably, to recover from alcoholism, as the cover and many of the poems suggests, including this brief p ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Craig rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: matt
This is my first taste of Franz Wright's poetry.

Initially, I thought his spare, open language felt amateurish in a way and was wondering how he could have won a Pulitzer.

However, there is a certain power to the tiny poems in this volume, a certain pull. I found myself falling for the words. I found myself truly loving many of the poems in the book. I will definitely look into more of his work.

Probably my favorite of the book:


There are a few things I will miss,
a girl with no shirt on
Honest. Minimal. Spoken from a "recovering asshole" and filled with consolations of light.
Caleb Benadum
Franz Wright's poetry is deceitfully easy to read, and minimalistic. While reading the actual book took me barely any time at all, chewing on the poems I jotted down from the book has taken me much longer. Which is Franz Wright's true brilliance, that so much is packed into so little, that his poetry is heartfelt, philosophical, and uniquely his own style, but also done in a way which leaves the reader thinking, at first: is this really where he wanted to end the poem? It's only on further refle ...more
Got this used for $4. The previous owner had dog-eared specific poems throughout the book, which was delightful, like silent marginalia.

If you're going to read one Franz Wright book, though, it should still definitely be Walking to Martha's Vineyard. This is the collection he wrote before that and it's rawer, more miserable, bleak and careful. It makes me appreciate Walking even more.
This just-pre-Walking to Martha's Vineyard collection just doesn't smack of the brilliance of Vineyard. Wright's sledgehammer imagery isn't quite here, the painful wrenching of the gut, the deathly and joyous insights. The shortest ones in here are best, but he far outdid himself with the next collection.
I find these poems more startling and fun and powerful than his Pulitzer prize book and his most recent books. Something about them being born out of the love for his wife. Something about the dark twists his images can take i.e. condom/body bad. I really enjoyed this one.
Interesting titles that have nothing to do with the poems themselves. It was very spare and bright (like the title of the book) and reflected a lot of his father's work, but he is definitely a master of his own poetry. Some poems were powerful, others I just didn't "get"
Not at all my cup of tea. Spare to the point of "this is... a finished...poem? Really?" I kinda liked a handful, which is not enough to endorse the book as a whole.
Abraham Hyatt
Disappointing. It's a raw story yet he manages to bore you with it by the end. There are gems: "Homage," "Bodybag." But he took the easy way out too often.
Natalia Cooper
Stacatto visions of the darkness of addiction and the light of redemption and faith. These poems are gorgoeous!
Gary McDowell
The poems I liked, I loved deeply and unsettlingly. The other poems I could live without.
The best of these poems have a world-weary cleverness.
not as good as ill lit, but still very good.
Erin Ahn
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Born in Vienna, Franz Wright is the author of fourteen collections of poetry. Walking to Martha's Vineyard (Knopf 2003) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His newest collections, God’s Silence, and Earlier Poems were published by Knopf in, 2006 & 2007. Wright’s other books include The Beforelife (2001), Ill Lit: New and Selected Poems (1998), Rorschach Test (1995), The Night World and the Word Ni ...more
More about Franz Wright...
Walking to Martha's Vineyard God's Silence Wheeling Motel Ill Lit Earlier Poems

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