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Walking to Martha's Vineyard

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  860 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
In this radiant new collection, Franz Wright shares his regard for life in all its forms and his belief in the promise of blessing and renewal. As he watches the “Resurrection of the little apple tree outside / my window,” he shakes off his fear of mortality, concluding “what death . . . There is only / mine / or yours,– / but the world / will be filled with the living.” I ...more
ebook, 96 pages
Published March 12th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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D. Pow
Mar 03, 2010 D. Pow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This book matters to me. Here I've found phrases, images and ideas that bludgeon like a hammer or caress like a feather. Here I recognize a God I know. The God of recovering drug addicts and booze hounds, the God you turn to when it's three am and you're convulsing and shivering on the bathroom floor, the God I turned to when I was a young man and I had shipwrecked against the shoals of my own fucked up self. Wright writes about a Catholic God, about 5am masses, signs of the cross, and the fearf ...more
Jun 23, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a short collection of minimalist poetry but each poem has such depth that I have found myself re-reading them immediately in my attempt to capture whatever I might from the experience. Some are so personal as to be almost inscrutable while a few are almost playful. Most are prayerful, full of fear, longing, pain, sadness, love and occasional delight. God is present everywhere, affirming his life.

From "Walden":

this morning
I stood once again
in this world, the garden
ark and vacant
tomb o
Dhanaraj Rajan
A fantastic collection. Each poem is a point of reflection for hours.
I do not want to talk a lot about his poems. Will give a sample and that would suffice:


Long nights, short years. Forgiving

When morning comes, and pain--

no one is stranger, this whole world is your home.

Erika Schoeps
The book that brought me back to poetry again. Wright is an absolute visionary who knows what minimalism is and how it should look in its most ideal form. Wright does so little and creates so, so much.

As a religion-less theist, I love talking about God in an exploratory fashion, and Wright does not disappoint. As a Catholic, Wright believes in God, and makes statements about God's existence and how he found God, but he at times contradicts himself in subtle ways (hint: read the line breaks as i
Nov 13, 2008 martha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in a modern poetry of spirituality; everyone
Shelves: poetry, 2008, 5-star-books
This is a book about grace. It focuses on Franz Wright's newfound sobriety and conversion to Catholicism. It's my understanding that he got a lot of flack for the latter, since religion -- or earnestness about religion -- is an unpopular topic in modern American poetry. But he's unapologetic about it and the poems are careful and spare and intense. The senses of both hope and struggle are tangible.

I kept being astonished by how *not* overwritten these were. It definitely deserved the Pulitzer it
Dec 17, 2012 Will rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hopelessly cheesy. Like a Hallmark card mixed with those awful Footprints Jesus cards. And this all coming from a hopeless romantic like me.
Jun 07, 2009 KFed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, favorites
There are few volumes of poetry that have had more impact on my life and on the way I read -- which are really maybe the same thing -- than this, Franz Wright's stirring and heartbreaking 'Walking to Martha's Vineyard.'

It's the crispness of the language and thought offered here, combined with the complete absence of language and easy answers/allusions in many places, that make this book so outstanding. (To say nothing of the subject matter.) Consider descriptions like the second stanza from the
Mar 18, 2008 W.B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: most people but read The Beforelife
Not my favorite book from this very readworthy author, although this is the one that netted him a very nice prize.

I love The Beforelife and others by him.

Happy Birthday, Franz!

I am glad you are here and writing and crafting such poetry, such great misery-safety-nets for all of us misery acrobats here on earth!
Aug 05, 2007 Lauren rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I saw him read from this book, and it was really terrible. Nothing worse than seeing a formerly good poet, suddenly find god. Yuck.
Dec 13, 2007 Emma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am the only person in the world who thought this book was awful, and I am at peace with that.
Aug 18, 2008 beauregard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
one of my tip top faves.

for Beth

Rain land, walnut blossoms raining
where I walk at sixteen

bright light in the north wind

Still sleeping bees at the grove's heart
(my heart's) till the sun
its "wake now"
kiss, the million
friendly gold huddlings
and burrowings of them hearing the shining
I hear, my only
cure for the loneliness I go through:


I believe one day the distance between myself and God will


Planet, the mind
said, all

as I was

The listening voi
Jan 26, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
there isn't a single poem in this book that i wasn't thrilled to read. very tenuous and lonely and questioning, but also affirming. i wish i could copy out every poem right here. just one (the title poem):

And the ocean smells like lilacs in late August-how is that.

The light there muted (silver) as remembered light.

Do you have any children?

No, lucky for them.

Bad things happen when you get hands, dolphin.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing?

There is no down or up in space or in the
Sep 12, 2010 Jenna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Someone recommended this book to me years ago, because she said her boyfriend was going through a phase where he was questioning mortality and he was loving this book. She said she thought I might enjoy this book too.

Now, I don't know what vibe I was giving off that she made the correlation between her boyfriend's issues and me - but I'm glad she recommended it. I previewed a bit at the bookstore and knew I had to own it. "Walking to Martha's Vineyard" was my first exposure to Franz Wright, and
There are a few things in this book that I feel really enriched to have read: a handful of stanzas from the title poem; the turtle imagery at the end of "Walden"; the first page of "The Only Animal"; a couple of the very short poems ("P.S.," "The Poem"); the memorably clever "risperdal/whisperdoll" pun. On the whole, though, I think many of the epiphanies Wright presents here are so vaguely worded that they are in danger of being mistaken for cliches. I would have liked to see more incisive thou ...more
R.G. Evans
Sep 28, 2008 R.G. Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read Franz Wright with interest for years. When I heard him read at the Dodge Poetry Festival this weekend, though, I felt as if a switch had been thrown in my brain, reactivating my own poetic desire. This book is less dark and disturbing than much of his work that I know, almost prayerful in some poems, but still it is a collection that continually surprises and stuns. Isn't that what poetry's all about?
Aug 07, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realize starting this book that Franz Wright was the Son of James Wright. Having been drawn in and troubled by James Wright and his luminous cruelty (women cluck like starved pullets dying for love), it was interesting to see his son's poems wrestling with the legacy of what must have been a difficult father. I found FW's imagery compelling, but wanted the theme to wander more.
Jun 02, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this, but didn't much.

Also, I can't get past the word "kindersluts". What a nasty word for a nasty, judgy thought. This phrase was applied to some random people seen on the street. Yuck. Am I being too literal or simple-minded here? Isn't the whole point that words really do matter?
Feb 04, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
His poems are filled with a quiet, aching desperation....the poems I most connected with in this volume were: "The Word "I", "The Poem", "Cloudless Snowfall", "Promise", "One Heart" and "Old Story"

Oct 21, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this short collection to prepare to attend the 30th anniversary of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival yesterday. I've read this wonderful collection before, but good poems bear many rereadings.

Years ago, I hear Franz Wright read poems from this collection. He inspired me to purchase this collection. I like FRANZ Wright's poems much better than his father's [James'] Wright's poems.
Jun 14, 2011 Aya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is a favorite collection of a dear friend. I've had it loaned to me several times (when I had the flu or a cold or we'd had a lot of rain that week and there wasn't any hot chocolate on hand) but I'd never actually read it b/c in distress I like to turn to books I've read before or books that have over 500 pages. (Very few people have the same problems when they finish reading Les Miserables that they have at the *start* of Les Miserables, is all I'm saying.) When I finally checked it out t ...more
Nov 15, 2009 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somebody mention F Wright to me the other day, and I thought, I've never read his work, so I gave this one a shot. I think it's decent-- these are well constructed poems of religious contemplation, alternating with poems about coming to terms with an absent father (the poet J Wright). I do feel like the religious poems lack the kind of angry passion I think characterizes the best religious poets like, I don't know, George Herbert. They seem a little easy, actually, with less of the wrestling wit ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wright's poetry is stilted, brief, and difficult to get into. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. His poems reflect his battles with addiction and depression, and reading them aloud, you can hear the stumble of the drunk, the darkness of the loneliness.

There seems to be a progression here as well. The poems grow as the book progresses, becoming fuller in thought and line, until we get to the title poem, the penultimate one in the collection, full of lines like:

If they'd stabbed me to death o
Hayley Stone
Jun 16, 2015 Hayley Stone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is only one heart in my body, have mercy
on me

A lot of the poems in this collection incorporate beautiful, albeit abstract imagery that allows—nay, necessitates the reader supplement their own life experiences in order to reach an understanding of the poem. Ordinarily, I would have found this kind of minimalism a tad frustrating, but Wright is a master poet who provides just enough detail to guide the reader to a conclusion. For me, personally, the religious themes also added a tremendous
Jun 22, 2015 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"How does one go/about dying?/Who on earth/is going to teach me--/The world/is filled with people/who have never died"

When Franz Wright passed away this year I decided to begin reading his poetry. My local library had the collection Walking to Martha's Vineyard. Wright speaks on the themes of birth, life, and death, with such gorgeous language, such intellectual precision, and with such daring questions, I found myself resisting the urge to gorge the poems down to the end and instead relished ea
Feb 01, 2009 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-glad-i-read
Franz Wright is so amazing that I think he would be dangerous to show to young writers, mainly because his style can quite easily be copied into trite, vague and emotionless crap. But Franz spins galaxies of depair and forgiveness (mostly of the self) where even the street outside the window may wish you ill or take suicidal turns towards the ocean. Wright's poetry is the poetry of deep-rooted pain and the need to find happiness in the world, and it is delivered in quick punches, startling image ...more
Dallin Bruun
Jan 11, 2011 Dallin Bruun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Franz Wright won a Pulitzer for this book of poetry: "If you are not disturbed, there is something seriously wrong with you, I'm sorry" "The world is not illusory, we are" It's beautiful the way all tragedies are, but considering his life is the tragedy and HE is the author, there's a haunting personal level; you feel for him. I can almost sum up my opinion of his work with this quote from the book: "...entry in the contest for the world's most poignant suicide note."
Mark Hollingsworth
May 28, 2009 Mark Hollingsworth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed the poems in this book and their flow from one to the next. It was easy to read. Nothing jarring or jagged, raw or surprising. There are, however some fresh metaphors.
I appreciated the way the poet approached the themes of aging and death.
The entire book rests in a spirit of prayer. Like the Psalms, these poem alternately address the reader, God, the creation and the author's soul.
My favorite poem of the collection: "The Only Animal"
If the Pulitzer committee was made up of a bunch of Christians, I can totally see why this won. Even if not, it's hard to deny that Wright knows what he's doing.

From Shaving in the Dark

And contributing one’s atoms to the green universe
how strange is that

And some have managed to live in a constant awareness
that all things, every evil thing
will be forgotten, neglecting
to mourn for every radiant thing, and so seeing
the radiance.
Bradley Harrison
"That glass was it filled with alcohol, water, or light // At ten / I turned you into a religion // The solitary / four-foot priest of you, I kept / the little manger candle / burning, I / kept your black half-inch of / scripture / in the hiding place // Destroyer / of the world // That empty / glass"

an excerpt from, "Flight"

This book makes me want to die crying.
Nov 19, 2007 Larisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i learned about wright listening to an interview with him on the radio. he sounded interesting, a little shy. and then he read from his new book, walking to martha's vineyard, and i cried. his way of expressing a sense of sadness mixed with wonder and faith really spoke to me. i am not generally a big poetry reading person, but the poems in this book really gripped me. read it!
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright 4 13 Feb 20, 2014 01:21PM  
  • Repair
  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • Practical Gods
  • The Shadow of Sirius
  • Failure
  • Black Zodiac
  • Collected Poems
  • Late Wife
  • Different Hours
  • Selected Poems
  • Native Guard
  • Blizzard of One
  • Thomas and Beulah
  • Selected Poems
  • The Simple Truth
  • Heart's Needle
  • Refusing Heaven
  • The Selected Levis
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...

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“I basked in you;
I loved you, helplessly, with a boundless tongue-tied love.
And death doesn't prevent me from loving you.
in my opinion you aren't dead.
(I know dead people, and you are not dead.)”

Now I'm not the brightest
knife in the drawer, but
I know a couple things
about this life: poverty
silence, impermanence
discipline and mystery

The world is not illusory, we are

From crimson thread to toe tag

If you are not disturbed
there is something seriously wrong with you, I'm sorry

And I know who I am
I'll be a voice
coming from nowhere,


be glad for me.
More quotes…