Loads of Learned Lumber

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Robert Wrigley, _Beautiful Country_

WHATEVER BECAME OF the "Mistress of my Fate" blog? A distinctly snarky observation about Robert Wrigley, drawn from the blog, serves as epigraph to one of the poems in this, Wrigley's most recent book, a poem in which Wrigley snarks right back at the blogger. But "Mistress of my Fate" seems to have disappeared. Perhaps M. of my F. decided it was time to re-brand.

This is the first volume by Wrigley I have picked up, inspired by a reading he recently gave in the vicinity. Likeable work. Love poems, poems of natural description, memories of boyhood and youth... fairly traditional subject matter, it's fair to say. It's not surprising to learn from "Introduction to Poetry" that Wrigley heard the call to become a poet after reading Herrick's "Upon Julia's Clothes," for his poems typically travel down the broad highway of the English lyric. Not without the occasional contemporary touch -- Wrigley describes discovering Herrick's poem on a campus somewhere in 1973, at the very moment a classmate named Julie whooshes by, "streaking."

Loping in cadence, expansive in syntax, generous in figuration, the poems in Beautiful Country do not have, to my ear, a sharply distinctive music -- in a jumble assortment of Wrigley's poems with others by, say, James Wright, Donald Justice, and Stephen Dunn, I don't believe I could guess which were his -- but they are worth reading. And I'm pleased to note he himself reads them well; in an era when rather too many poets have taken literally J. S. Mill's dictum that "poetry is overheard," Wrigley performs his poems with a refreshing energy.

No comments: