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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

ON TOP OF THE SUNLIGHT James Wright, This Journey (Random House) $10.50

James Wright died in 1980 in his fifty-third year and this is his final volume, more or less completed ready for the press before he died. He wrote what could be thought of as a standard twentieth-century American lyric poetry, the poems being occasional, written in a free verse through which the speaking voice can be clearly heard. The voice is compassionate, elegiac, boldly sentimental at times and wryly concerned with sensitive detail. Not all the poems in this volume are in free verse, but the few which are in regular lines with rhymes do not seem to work very well, having what an ungenerous mind might consider the tang of the creative writing seminar about them, and the same mind might see the subjects of the poems (towns and ruins in southern Europe, recollections of an Ohio childhood with Old Buck on his front porch swing, mice and various other creatures) as indications of a low level of poetic energy. This same mind might groan over the flatness of the diction of the first poem in the book, complaining that the occasional coming to apparent life of the language in a phrase such as 'the stone-eyed legions of the rain' was much too willed to be anything other than corney, pointing also to the prose poems with their small aperçus as further indication that this is a talent played out and only going through the motions.

Half an hour of reading would soon dispose of all ...


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