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Walking to Martha's Vineyard

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,211 ratings  ·  129 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
Paperback, 75 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Knopf (first published 2003)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,211 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

Franz Wright and his father James Wright are the only father and son to each win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In addition to a Pulitzer, the two shared other things: alcoholism, manic-depression, and lives shortened by cancer. In my opinion—based only on this, his prize-winning book—Franz also inherited a little more than half his father’s genius and a little less than half his talent. But that in itself is enough to make Walking to Martha’s Vineyard worthy of a Pulitzer prize.

His parents divorc
D. Pow
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
As the saying goes, this is not your father's Oldsmobile. Hit or miss. At some points, I felt 3-star-ish, at others, 4. Round up like the kind math teacher, then. I thought all the poems would be about Martha's Vineyard but, truth told, only the title poem is about Martha's Vineyard (you know, walking on water to get there). The rest? Mostly about life, and the end that's always under the bridge (Death as troll or billy goat gruff).

Sometimes you get a head scratcher like "Quest":

The bell which
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in a modern poetry of spirituality; everyone
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
Erika Schoeps
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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.

May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The kind of poetry you can read over and over again and pray a new prayer every time.
Kayla Hollatz
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the perfect poetry collection to read on a Saturday morning. The contrast between light and death in the setting of winter opened up a whole new understanding of faith in the dark places. His words are written with intention and clarity. I really enjoyed this spiritual collection!
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
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Aug 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
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 rated it did not like it
I am the only person in the world who thought this book was awful, and I am at peace with that.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Hopelessly cheesy. Like a Hallmark card mixed with those awful Footprints Jesus cards. And this all coming from a hopeless romantic like me.
Tyler Jones
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'm sure this is a good book of poetry, having won the Pulitzer Prize, but I can't say I enjoyed it very much. There were moments of great insight, but the long stretches obsessing on death wore out my empathy, and I could not connect personally with all the Catholic stuff.

I was floored a couple times:

Since you left me at eight I have always been lonely

star-far from the person right next to me, but

closer to me than my bones you

you are there

But far too many other times I felt it crossed over int
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: so-glad-i-read
UPDATE, April 4, 2020 - some poetry tries to write itself into joy and ecstasy. Wright’s poetry comes straight from the maelstrom at the heart of that centerpiece of human existence. I’d be hard-put to name much other poetry that so essentially captures such raw emotion with an honesty and technical prowess that makes the internal logic of his best work so exquisitely reliant on itself. Despite reading through this collection again in a day, I started over again and again, page after page, not s ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
R.G. Evans
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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? ...more
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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!
Karen Hausdoerffer
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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"

Anna Mosca
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What of the best poetry books I've ever read! I'm at loss for words other than: Thank you Franz Wright. ...more
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"Set the mind
before the mirror of eternity

and everything will work."

— Excerpt from Untitled

A remarkable collection of 53 poems, which are all written from a place of spiritual depth, exploring themes of self awareness, connection, love, emptiness, longing, death, redemption, the desire of attaining unity with a higher self. The poet, is, at once, in love by the beauty of the world, and devastated by it. Every line unravels a deeper sense of a universal understanding.

"How does one go
about dying?
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful moments of bliss for all those in need of the gentle touch of a rain of words pouring from the sky into their hearts the nourishment of peace and unconditional love.

One Heart
"... The astonishing windy
and altering light
and clouds and water were, at certain
The brown leaves buried all winter
creatureless feet
running over dead grass beginning to
green, the first scentless
violet here and there, returned, the
first star noticed all
at once as one stands staring into the
black wat
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection is extraordinary. A man dealing with his father's absence, his father's death, his own death, his love for this world. He writes in such simple beautiful, often unfinished sentences. He is broken and hopeful and then caught up in the dark and it is all present and real, not abstract at all. I will buy this book; having it from the library is not enough. I wasn't going to buy any more books. I am trying to read and give away. Share the wealth. Fill the Little Libraries on the stre ...more
Timothy Sikes
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had this book loaned from the library for three weeks and read it through multiple times, each time having to add and rearrange my favorites list. I love the way he interplays the despondent and the sublime.

Top Ten Poems:

* The word "I"
* Letter (January 1998)
* Circle Drawn in Water
* The Only Animal
* Abandoned Letter
* Baptism
* The New Jerusalem
* 5:00 Mass
* April Orchard
* The First Supper
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
And now I have to go read every word he ever wrote...
Rachel Y
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I was introduced to Franz Wright through "P.S." back in college. I didn't keep good track of his name - had only the feeling or image of birds - and it's funny how you take those encounters for granted in a place like school, and so I lost him for a while and then suddenly found him for a moment and then lost him again, this time for a long while. Finally reading him fully after 11 years of wandering feels like a wonderful cycle complete.

There's quite a bit that makes me uncomfortable in his poe
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
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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 Night ...more

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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…