Black Zodiac
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Black Zodiac

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  420 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award

Black Zodiac offers poems suffused with spiritual longing—lyrical meditations on faith, religion, heritage, and morality. The poems also explore aging and mortality with restless grace. Approaching his vast subjects by way of small moments, Wright magnifies details to reveal truths much larger than the...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 4th 1998 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 4th 1997)
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The Collected Poems by Wallace StevensThe Waking by Theodore Roethke77 Dream Songs by John BerrymanThe Collected Poems by Sylvia PlathThe Wild Iris by Louise Glück
Pulitzer Winners: Poetry
28th out of 90 books — 32 voters
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'ConnorEverything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'ConnorA Thousand Acres by Jane SmileyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Iowa Writers' Workshop
80th out of 95 books — 17 voters


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Community Reviews

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Abigail
Amazing! Absolutely Brilliant. First time in a while I've read a poetry collection from front to back. I love his juxtaposition of landscape and language, the unseen and the seen. Definitely will always return to this collection when I'm seeking inspiration.

Fav. Lines:

"What happens is what happens,
And what happened never existed to start with."

"It is the shape that matters, he said.
Indeed shape precludes shapelessness, as God precludes
Godlessness.
Form is the absence of all things. Like sin. Yes...more
Gabriel Oak
I originally read this collection in college, and while I liked the language, I don't think I understood exactly what was going on. This time around: LOVED IT. My favorite poems: "Disjecta Membra," "Jesuit Graves," "Umbrian Dreams," and "Thinking of Winter at the Beginning of Summer," which ends with these lines:

Pulled from despair like a bad tooth,
I see my roots, tiny roots,
glisten like good luck in the sun.
What we refuse defines us,
a little of this, a little of that.
The light stays fool's go...more
Chris
It's not quite a thesis, but the touchstone for this and much of Wright's work is that "Landscape is a lever of transcendence." Much of his work moves like a journal, a series of connected rumination on a subject or idea. Ideas, like the clouds that so often draw him here, drift through these pages. For Wright, there is absolutely a spiritual dimension to life, a dimension that can be sought but likely never grasped. I'll let him say it:

"We hang like clouds between heaven and earth
between somet...more
Michael Gossett
My favorite Charles Wright book. These long poems jostle you around; I wish more poets were capable of doing that.
Jessica
I have a tendency to prefer earlier poetry by many poets to their later works. I think of this as a fault of my own, my inability to keep up with their artistic development. Charles Wright is one of my all-time favorite poets, and reading this book, I felt more of a kinship towards his older pieces. So I read the book three times because I am not willing to give up on Charles Wright and myself that easily. Finally I came to love it, and recognized that my own predisposition to dislike too much a...more
Daniel Klawitter
We go to our graves with secondary affections,
Second-hand satisfaction, half-souled,
star charts demagnetized.
We go in our best suits. The birds are flying. Clouds pass.
Sure we're cold and untouchable,
but we harbor no ill will.
No tooth tuned to resentment's fork,
we're out of here, and sweet meat.
Calligraphers of the disembodied, God's word-wards,
What letters will we illuminate?
Renee
Such a relief to read beautiful language after plodding through Sartre, and so many common themes between the two.

"-the love of loss/ Light as a locket around my neck, idea of absence/Hard and bright as a dime inside my trouser pocket." (from lives of the artists pg 42)

(Also see poem 'envoi')

Once again, I connect clearly so much better to poetry and fable, than to the stripped bare language of philosophy.

Poetry is like an old friend: "My friend who in the old days, with a sentence or two,/ Woul...more
Will
Jun 21, 2014 Will added it
I decided to read our new poet laureate's most famous poetry collection. There is no doubt this man can write. But I felt lost a lot during the course of these 83 pages. He is obsessed with the seasons, especially winter, and tends to focus on the American countryside. I'm too confused to rate this, but I did like it. Conflicted.
Zayne
I keep moving forward and backward throughout this book. I feel no compunction to read it through chronologically—and I find that it enhances my ability to understand each of the tender hooks that hold together the pieces of this work. Wright's poetic imagination is immense, and his leaps of logic and phrase border on the divine--not as in fat cherubs playing harps or old ladies ogling a waiter, but in the sense of being at once beyond and within human understanding. We can understand when we li...more
Mii
This book is a great read!
James
Feb 26, 2008 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poetry readers (obviously).
More demanding than many poetry collections I've read, this text requires a thorough cover-to-cover reading due to its interconnected subjects, imagery, and themes. The experience is rewarding, but until I treated as a set to be read together rather than just a collection of poems bound together out of circumstance (like in a Muldoon collection, for example), I wasn't able to fully enjoy the book.
Bradley Harrison
"It's good to know certain things: / What's departed, in order to know what's left to come; / That water's immeasurable and incomprehensible // And blows in the air / Where all that's fallen and silent becomes invisible; / That fire's the light our names are carved in."


an excerpt from, "Apologia Pro Vita Sua, pt III"









Probably my single favorite book of poems.
Timothy
This book won a ton of awards. If you read it you'll know why. Wright is perhaps my favorite living poet, having the ability to compare some of the greatest works of art and artists with an image of his backyard. Brilliant.
Lindsey
Charles Simic once said when asked what he'd say his poetry is "about" that it was a difficult question because then Charles Wright wrote about the weather in Charlottesville, VA. Love.
Patrick Mcgee
Charles Wright gets better the older he gets. I'm reading through his entire collection of poetry over the decades and this is his best yet. Highly recommended.
Daniela
Each of these poems has two or three lines that are devastatingly beautiful and twenty or thirty lines that are just kind of meh-ish.
Ethan
I won't pretend to understand the poetry, but the imagery is some of the most astonishing and fascinating I've ever read.
SmarterLilac
My favorite Wright, and one of the best books of poetry I've yet found. It's one to own.
Kim
Dead on. One of the best collections I've ever read, hands down.
Simona
definitely my favorite of his.
polly
he's just the best.
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