A Short History of the Shadow[1] is a pendant to Charles Wright’s Appalachian Book of the Dead, the three trilogies that took him a quarter-century to complete. The new poems are written in the sketchy, hither-thither manner, like the musings of a man waking from anaesthesia, into which Wright’s hard early style has gradually softened. He has enough irony left to realize how close that style has grown (except in ambition) to the junk pile of Pound’s Cantos. You could almost rewrite Wright’s diaries, if you’d been careless enough to use them for kindling, from the daybook entries here.

Wright’s specialty is romantic vision (you suspect he’d see himself as a visionary, if he weren’t so modest and afflicted with doubt) —he finds the sublime in the unlikeliest places, and at his best makes you think such places are exactly...


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