for FRANZ WRIGHT: “dark, then bright, so bright”

An antique Relic found amongst the Ruins,
thought to be Samson’s.

What Genius Means Border………………….[Click twice on the old script to read it more easily.]

A further antique Relic thought to be Samson’s:
illuminations on Jūlija’s desk under the volcano on Bali.

God burns

…………….God Burns 4 …………..[Click twice on both to see better, & read carefully for clues to decipher the text.]

Dear Jūlija,……………………………………………………….December 9th, 2017
I love what you say in your last paragraph about the “message of the relics” — it’s very exciting how we’re finding our way there together, and I’m tremendously grateful to you for the help.

In answer to your question about Franz Wright, he was a unique, and uniquely great, American poet who also had a uniquely troubled life. He died just two and a half years ago after a long struggle with lung cancer, having essentially smoked himself to death. He had been abusing drugs and alcohol and everything else for 40 years, was in and out of mental hospitals, and was famous for being extremely angry and aggressive in public and especially  on-line. For examples of the latter you can go to For Franz Wright (2010) cited in my previous post. In particular you can read his Comment 34 followed by his Comments 38 & 39, and finally his very moving last Comment 41.  (For convenience sake I have highlighted all Franz Wright’s Comments in Green.) And you can also read a short reply of my own to him in Comment 40, which will give you an idea of how I dealt with all this at the time.

Insufficiently, needless to say, and why I have felt compelled to revisit the original thread 7 years later, and of course why I am dedicating “He Reflects on What his Genius Means” to Franz Wright along with your beautiful illuminations.

Also why I have high-lighted in blue the discussion with my co-editor at the time, the anti-modernist critic, Tom Brady, who mocked Franz Wright ferociously both as a poet and as a person throughout. My feeling is that readers will be interested not only in Tom Brady’s ‘Old- (as opposed to ‘New-) Critical’ views but also in the way my own understanding of both ‘the poet’ and ‘poetry’ in general developed during the discussion. Because I was caught between a rock and a very hard place, pushing against two uncompromising Savanarolas, Tom Brady on the own hand and Franz Wright on the other, the former dismissing my poem, “Leonardo Amongst Women,” as “didactic” and the latter as “perfectly awful.”

Which was a lot to deal with then, and still is.

[Cont. in the Comments.]

2 Comments

  1. December 9, 2017 at 11:38 am

    [cont.]
    To continue on Franz Wright then, and this is still for you, dear Jūlija.

    There’s no doubt that when Franz Wright said my poem was “perfectly awful” in Comment 2 he meant it as an insult. But he was a great poet, and the root of his genius was an incandescence that burnt in two ways at once, both damaging and healing everything around him. And he lived with that paradox all his life too — raging, raging, like an Old Testament Prophet, and with that much to say as well.

    Just like the two complementary “relics” we are working on, Franz Wright’s “truly awful life” had two flames, one which incinerated and the other which warmed and illuminated his being. I have no doubt that when he was in a kinder, less self-destructive mood, Franz Wright would certainly have understood “perfectly awful,” i.e. “really, really bad,” to mean equally “perfectly awful,” i.e. “sublimely awful” in the sense of full of awe or fear in the highest sense. And that’s the conundrum I’m trying to write about, and why I had to go all the way back to January 21st, 2010, take the “truly awful” Franz Wright I knew at the time by the hand, and bring him to help us all here.

    For Franz Wright was Kierkegaard’s child, the one who saved the world from drowning in the well by drowning in the well himself.

    There were three, especially important crises in Franz Wright’s life. The first was that he and his mother were abandoned by his father in Vienna when Franz was only six. The second was that his absent father was the much-loved American poet, James Wright, who wrote generous and open-hearted poetry that transformed other people’s lives but was not there for his son. And the final crux, indeed the seminal one, almost certainly the key to his life and his riddle — his life-long struggle to find God whom he knew to be radiantly almost there but who always remained silent. (Family therapists can say what they like about absent fathers, reductio ad absurdum, but God’s absence still remains the existential dilemma at the heart of the mystery of consciousness.)

    And just in passing, it’s important to note that Franz Wright struggled as an unknown poet for 30 years, receiving recognition at last only at the age of 56. And needless to say, that means a lot to me personally, being a poet who is still largely unknown after 28 years of writing poetry — but then I started at 50 as opposed to 26, so at only 78 I still have two years to go!

    I’m sure you can see how all that works in with what we are doing, Jūlija. Indeed, all that’s why I decided to return to For Franz Wright (2010). And that’s also why I’m attempting to write yet again about matters which are almost impossible to express, at least in prose — and that’s why your grace and your holy doodles are so important too.

    Hope that helps. In addition, you might Google “Franz Wright” to see what an Old Testament prophet looks like today — I do that myself almost every time I read him.

    But don’t try too hard to read him yourself — nobody can do that easily. His poems are so short, violent and culturally disruptive they will be extremely difficult for a non-native speaker like yourself to follow. But I’m sure you can get a sense of the burning and the despair and the rage in him combined with an almost unbearable sense of vision even when he’s totally blind. On the other hand, you’re a Russian-speaking Latvian, so you should have no trouble with that!

    This is one of his best known poems — it’s a little less turbulent than much of his work, though the direction and the impact are still burning. It’s also the subject of some discussion on the 2010 “For Franz Wright” thread, which is why I chose it for you here.

    ………………………………A HAPPY THOUGHT

    ………………Assuming this is the last day of my life
    ………………(which might mean it is almost the first)
    ………………I’m struck blind but my blindness is bright.
    ………………Prepare for what’s known here as death;
    ………………have no fear of that strange word forever.
    ………………Even I can see there’s nothing there
    ………………to be afraid of: having already been
    ………………to forever I’m unable to recall
    ………………anything that scared me, there, or hurt.
    ………………What frightened me, apparently, and hurt
    ………………was being born. But I got over that
    ………………with no hard feelings. Dying, I imagine,
    ………………it will be the same deal, lonesomer maybe,
    ………………but surely no more shocking or prolonged-
    ………………It’s dark as I recall, then bright, so bright.

    …………………………………………………….Franz Wright (2006)

    C.

  2. December 15, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    ……………………………………………………………………..December 15th, 2017
    This is what I want to say to everybody, this is what I really meant way back here.

    As I grow older I am more and more awed by the volatility combined with extreme vulnerability in Franz Wright’s person, because the outbursts on that 2010 thread are a unique testimony to what I have called his Old Testament Prophet-like intensity. It’s hard to imagine living at such extremity, yet to do so was at the very heart of Franz Wright’s genius and, by extension, I would say, of the human condition experienced at its most uncompromising, divinely disastrous, indeed ‘Promethean’ limits. For that is what he expressed in both his life and his poetry.

    So I dedicate “He Reflects on What His Genius Means” to Franz Wright, a great man who wore such a great heart on such a ragged sleeve.

    Christopher


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