The Latest from the Front Lines of Literature
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Writers and editors on craft, publishing, reception, and more...
Writers in Conversation, Editors and Authors in Conversation, and more...
I have to begin by saying that as far as I know, and even listening to all the people talking earlier, I have to say that war is man-made. It’s made by men. It’s their thing, it’s their world, and they’re terribly injured in it. They suffer terribly in it, but it’s made by men. How do they come to live this way? It took me years to understand this. Because when I was a little girl, I was a boy—like a lot of little girls who like to get into things and want to be where the action is, which is up at the corner someplace, where the boys are. And I understood this very well, because that was what really interested me. I could hardly wait to continue being a boy so that I could go to war and do all the other exciting boys’ things. And it took my own life, really, for me to begin to change my mind somehow— after a number of years of actually living during the Second World War. I lived a lot in Army camps. And I liked living in those Army camps; I liked them because it was very exciting, and it seemed to be where it was all at, and there were a lot of boys there, one of which, one of the boys, was my husband. The other boys were just gravy, so to speak.
Of the many resources I’ve mined in researching James Wright: A Life in Poetry, the most vivid have been recordings of Wright’s readings over the course of two decades, when he was a vital public figure in the world of American poetry. A strong impression of his physical presence survives in his voice, in the stories he tells, and in the poems he says—many of them written by others. Wright did not recite poems, and rarely needed a printed text. The word he used was saying poems; they were part of how he spoke, even how he thought. Wright had an astounding memory, so alert to the patterns of sound and language that some I interviewed described it as a “phonographic” memory. After saying poems in Latin, German, or Spanish, Wright would improvise his own translations. He knew countless poems by heart, as well as entire Shakespeare plays, novels by Dickens, and essays by H. L. Mencken and George Orwell—a seemingly infinite store.
“So Where Are We?” is the title poem of So Where Are We, forthcoming from FSG in August. So Where Are We? begins where Into It, my last book of poems, left off, amid the global violence unleashed by the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.