KFed's Reviews > Walking to Martha's Vineyard

Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright
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Jun 07, 09

bookshelves: 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 opening poem, 'Year One,' the 'Moonlit winter clouds the color of the desperation of wolves. Proof / of Your existence? There is nothing / but.' Language has rarely been so precise. The desperation here is almost unbearable, and yet, because of the precision of the image, and because of the uniqueness of the poet's vision and his allowance of meaning to take hold in the poem's white spaces and lack of language, the meaning here is almost tangibly real, almost frightening in its realness.

Remarkable, also, are Wright's subtle turns. The transition of the poem 'Fathers' from an elegy to an unknown, unknowable but longed-for God -- one 'Father' -- to an elegy to the poet's own father, who died by drowning. The transition here is so precise that it startles me every time.

I re-read this book and keep wondering how each poem here works -- how the meaning is achieved, how the language, spare as it is, manages to contain in it entire worlds of despair and sadness. And I can't. The volume resists my ability to expose its mechanics. I love it so much for for that reason. I bathe in the words offered here and cherish the man so capable and generous to offer them. A true work of art. I cry every time.
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