James Wright: “Poetry can keep life itself alive.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of the poet James Wright, born in  Martins Ferry, Ohio. His father worked for 50 years at a glass factory and his mother worked in a laundry. Wright went to Kenyon College on the GI Bill after World War II. That’s where he studied writing formally, though he’d been writing since high school.

His first book of poetry, The Green Wall, was published in 1956 and was awarded the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Saint Judas followed three years later, and Wright thought that that was it for him. “After I finished that book I had finished with poetry forever,” he told The Paris Review. “I truly believed that I had said what I had to say as clearly and directly as I could, and that I had no more to do with this art.”

But then he met the poet Robert Bly and Bly’s wife, Carol, and they invited Wright to spend some time with them on their Minnesota farm. “They loved me and they saved my life,” he later said. “I don’t mean just the life of my poetry, either.” Wright went on to write seven more books, and in 1972, his Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize.

He said: “Poetry can keep life itself alive. You can endure almost anything as long as you can sing about it.” 

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