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30 review for Saint Judas (Wesleyan Poetry Program)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    It is not every poet who can master two distinct styles—one he inherited from his teachers and one he pioneered himself—and then fashion poems in each of those styles that are extraordinary personal utterances, deeply expressive of the central concerns of both the poet and the man. James Wright is such a poet, and Saint Judas is the book that best displays his mastery of the first of his two distinct styles. In The Green Wall, his first collection, Wright demonstrated that he could sing an elegy It is not every poet who can master two distinct styles—one he inherited from his teachers and one he pioneered himself—and then fashion poems in each of those styles that are extraordinary personal utterances, deeply expressive of the central concerns of both the poet and the man. James Wright is such a poet, and Saint Judas is the book that best displays his mastery of the first of his two distinct styles. In The Green Wall, his first collection, Wright demonstrated that he could sing an elegy with the richness of Ransom and craft a blank verse with the subtlety of Frost. In St. Judas he merges the two: the rhymed elegies are deeper, more indirect, and the once spare blank verse now moves with a more abundant music. In spite of the superficial clarity of these poems, I was sometimes unable to identify their speakers with confidence, even when the tale itself was clear. Was it murderer or victim who spoke of mercy and terror? Was it mourner or ghost who moaned the grieving words? For Wright it matters little, for each pilgrim soul is of equal interest to him: it is “passion”--in the Christian theological sense—that is his subject. It is what they have passed through—not their guilt or innocence—which interests him. As Wright says (“At the Executed Murderer's Grave”), “I do not pity the dead. I pity the dying.” There are many fine poems contained here, but I'll forbear from quoting at length. The collection works much better as a unified whole. Nevertheless, I can't help but include the title—and final—poem of this brief collection, for it most clearly shows us the traitor as hero, the damned as saint: SAINT JUDAS When I went out to kill myself, I caught A pack of hoodlums beating up a man. Running to spare his suffering, I forgot My name, my number, how my day began, How soldiers milled around the garden stone And sang amusing songs; how all that day Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away. Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten, Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms: Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten, The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope, I held the man for nothing in my arms.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    I read a poem a day over several days, before writing -- a kind of lectio divina -- and the voice & rhythms infected me, even if many of the poems eluded me. There's a pained and sensitive attention to morality here, and the poems feel extremely complicated and mournful emotionally, which creates a nice dissonance -- kind of haunting -- with the traditional rhyme schemes and forms. My favorites use both end rhyme and enjambment, so the rhymes are more subtle but still so careful and deliberate. " I read a poem a day over several days, before writing -- a kind of lectio divina -- and the voice & rhythms infected me, even if many of the poems eluded me. There's a pained and sensitive attention to morality here, and the poems feel extremely complicated and mournful emotionally, which creates a nice dissonance -- kind of haunting -- with the traditional rhyme schemes and forms. My favorites use both end rhyme and enjambment, so the rhymes are more subtle but still so careful and deliberate. "Saint Judas" is the title poem -- one of Wright's best, I think. And this bit from "The Morality of Poetry": "Before you let a single word escape, Starve it in the darkness; lash it to the shape Of tense wing skimming on the sea alone..."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joel Van Valin

    James Wright was just over thirty when his second book, Saint Judas, was published. Unlike his later free verse poetry, he was writing mostly rhyme and meter at this time - and hadn't really found his voice yet. Except for "Paul" and "A Breath of Air", there is nothing memorable here; his personality is submerged in the overly mannered rhyme and meter. While poets like Yeats, Frost, Millay and Lord Byron used rhyme and meter like a paintbrush to reveal aspects of their character and the world ar James Wright was just over thirty when his second book, Saint Judas, was published. Unlike his later free verse poetry, he was writing mostly rhyme and meter at this time - and hadn't really found his voice yet. Except for "Paul" and "A Breath of Air", there is nothing memorable here; his personality is submerged in the overly mannered rhyme and meter. While poets like Yeats, Frost, Millay and Lord Byron used rhyme and meter like a paintbrush to reveal aspects of their character and the world around them, Wright just seems to be trying to stay within the lines of a paint-by-number. He would go on to write moderately better in free verse - about as fine as Robert Bly and perhaps better than John Berryman - and become a successfull poet, in a modest American way. But his dream of being a poet for the ages dies in Saint Judas, with a couple shooting stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julian

    Lovely formal poems, just before his break with the old school of midcentury rhyming verse. The last half of the book is very strong, grappling with suicide, old enemies, murder and the dark themes that might have forecast his own death.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bevharp64

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ly Madden

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike Koehler

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Custer

  15. 5 out of 5

    Clif

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather Foster

  17. 4 out of 5

    David Nyang'Anga

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Montemarano

  20. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Pikula

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul Scot August

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Bollenbach

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jefferson Adams

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Travelstead

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Toh

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angela Hendershot

  29. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Munsterman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

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