Pulitzer Poetry as Covert Theology

A couple of nights ago I holed up in a corner of Schuler's (a great bookstore here in Grand Rapids) and devoured Franz Wright's Pulitzer-prize-winning collection of poems, Walking to Martha's Vineyard (Knopf, 2003). Amazing stuff: somewhat like the films of Coppola or Scorcese, Wright has an almost myopic account of the brokenness of a fallen world--but precisely because of that, shards of redemptive light seem to be that more dazzling when they break through. And they do in these poems, in oblique but powerful ways. While written in and through the experiences of addiction, abandonment, and emptiness bordering on the abyss, one finds in the poems deep longings for--and hopeful affirmations of--revelation, resurrection, and loving friendship (see "5:00 Mass").

Several of the most powerful poems--to me, at least--are those written to a father that abandoned Wright when he was just 8. Here we see this dialectical tension between desparate longing and persistent hope. And one gets a sense that this is a letter to more than one father--a father on earth, to be sure, but perhaps also a Father in heaven. (Note the ambiguity: "At ten I turned you into a religion" in "Flight.")

Much more to be said: but no substitute for reading this art first hand. (Find a [probably illegal] sampling of Wright at http://www.bishink.org/bishink/billy/poems.html.)