Poetry Review: “Beginning” by James Wright

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Fall has come again to the North Country. Leaves are turning, days growing cooler. The long, dark days of winter are coming.

Yesterday I posted for the first time since August. By far the longest I have gone between posts at either MontanaWriter or ClimbingSky. I wish I could cite a reason for the long silence, but there really is not one. Or at least one I can easily articulate.

I have struggled most of my life with depression. The ebbs and flows of feelings that seem to rise and fall upon me like a tide moved by some distant moon. Darkness and shadows swinging between long days of gray.

On the darker days, reading and writing become impossible. All the energy I can muster goes into work and all those daily things I have need to do.

Born hard of hearing, and preternaturally stubborn, it took me years to discover what most instinctively know, that music can be the boat to carry me through on those darkest days when even the words of Yeats and Shelley and Keats cannot pull me through.

For the last little while it has been the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. But over the years it has been Duke Ellington and Lester Young, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Waylon & Willie, George Jones and Pavorotti….

It has not always been like this for me. For a long time, music seemed like the least of arts. I shared Yeats’ poetical distain for the way that words become distorted in music: i.e. his famous example of the word love becoming looooooooovvvvvve.

It also took me a long time to discover what my eldest daughter calls “my own” music. Surrounded for years by friends and relatives who were passionate about their own music which more often than not I did not really like, I listened and tried to learn to like their music, because I liked and valued them so much.

Overtime, I have found the kinds of music I enjoy and that can give voice to what I am so often unable to give voice to myself. For that I am thankful. Music, like Nature and the people of our lives, is a gift to us from God.

Here is a fine poem about fall and nature and listening.



by James Wright

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
 I have said about James Wright in another poetry review here:
James Wright spent a great deal of time in the North Country. He knew the want of hard-winters as well as the bountiful beauty of easy springs: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. (Wright, like so many poets – all poets – suffered from depression.) Many of his best poems are about the beauty of nature… at least, many that I like best.


Comments are closed.