Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307265661, 272pp.
Publication Date: May 8, 2007
So wrote Franz Wright in “Nocturne,” from his 1982 collection, The One Whose Eyes Open When You Close Your Eyes, published when he was in his late twenties. In this dazzling collection of Wright’s first four books, we go back to his origins and meet a much younger poet, pained and prescient: he is the boy secretly sipping from his father’s bourbon and sealing his fate; he is the “Boy Leaving Home,” who is happy to find “the little Olivetti / like a miniature suitcase / placed beside him on the frozen ground.” We also get a rare glimpse of the poet in love as a young man, as he begins to grapple with the inevitably fleeting aspect of anything that is beautiful, and to examine where it goes. In Wright’s case, that doomed beauty is masterfully transformed into poetry.
Earlier Poems is a rich study in one poet’s development—not simply Wright’s journey from dark to light, but a revelation of the ways in which the darkness contained glimmers of what was to come. Even in the midst of desolation he wrote ravishing, hopeful poems that point to the generous, often joyful sensibility of the mature poet we know today, and the strong sense of vocation that has made his work so powerful through the years.
Franz Wright’s most recent works include God’s Silence, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard (which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), The Beforelife (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and Ill Lit: Selected & New Poems. He has been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the PEN/Voelcker Prize, among other honors. He currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, the translator and writer Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.
“[Wright’s] hard-won revelations seem subtle but are potently rousing. He achieves a level of balance between the unseen and seen, the lost and found, that, like Rilke’s simultaneous sense of ‘stone in you and star,’ is masterful to say the least.” —Booklist
“Wright propels his work forward with clear details, brutally forthright self-knowledge, and a sense of being lost in America familiar even to the most found of us.” —Chicago Tribune