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Oblivion Banjo: The Poetry of Charles Wright by Charles Wright

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Yes, 754 pages, not a misprint. Back in my July, 2019, reviews, I brazenly pontificated about Fred Chappell’s As If It Were: Poems, “If any other book gets any award for the most outstanding Appalachian poetry book of this year, one could easily argue that to be a travesty.” I spoke too soon and too carelessly. Yes, an awards committee could easily judge that a book of all new poems by Fred Chappell is more deserving than a compilation of poems previously published in book form, but there is no way that an award given to Oblivion Banjo by Charles Wright would be a “travesty.” Nice that Chappell was a North Carolina Poet Laureate, but Wright was a United States Poet Laureate! Both earned a Bollingen Prize, but Wright also has a Pulitzer and a National Book Award to his credit, along with other prestigious commendations. This book reprints poems from seventeen of Wright’s twenty-two collections, including all the poems in Littlefoot. "Wright’s poetry is driven by a trembling wonder before existence, and by a profound sense of mortality . . . Reading the abundance collected in Oblivion Banjo ― 17 volumes over four decades or so, the work of a lifetime ― one is struck by the care and the craftsmanship, but even more by the intense gravity of the spiritual striving." ―Troy Jollimore, The New York Times Book Review. “For decades Charles Wright has been America’s backwoods Buddhist, its metaphysical gardener, its lore collector, a most cosmopolitan local . . . He simply listens, taking in what the land says without speaking. As a poet he creates a similar effect, whether working in a sestet or a sonnet, or in the long, wending lines of his 1995 volume, Chickamauga, Wright sounds the same: Like a poet looking inward and outward at the same time.” John Freeman,  Literary Hub. Charles Wright lives in Charlottesville where he was a distinguished professor at U. Va., and also enjoys time at his Montana second home.

New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019. 754 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.