- Hardcover: 96 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (March 18 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374119023
- ISBN-13: 978-0374119027
- Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 1.5 x 543.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 259 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #690,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Caribou: Poems Hardcover – Mar 18 2014
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“Inside [Wright's] lyric, there resides a world well beyond the ordinary . . . It is the heart and soul that he delivers so eloquently.” ―Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times
“Haunted by what he has and has not said, Charles Wright pens a poetry of urgent expectation. His verse moves effortlessly from image to emotion to gnomic maxims about life and death. In them, he traces the lineaments of transcendence with delicacy and desire, humility and regret. Wright's is an elegiac yearning born of the 'stepchild hour, / belonging to neither the light nor dark, / The hour of disappearing things.' Winner of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize and many other honors, Wright has carefully crafted Caribou, his 21st collection, around the tension of unbelief--reaching for an eternity that may not be there, ever watchful, always trusting, never sure . . . No one else writes quite like Wright, with his intensity of purpose, his attunement to the spheres, his keen eye on creation. With each new book, he breeds our expectation to find an ecstatic opening to the other world. Even as we make our home in this one.” ―Arlice Davenport, The Witchta Eagle
“[Caribou] is a dexterous balance of lightness in dark . . . Wright once again delivers the kind of poetry we cannot imagine poetry without. ” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Charles Wright is the United States Poet Laureate. His poetry collections include Country Music, Black Zodiac, Chickamauga, Bye-and-Bye: Selected Later Poems, Sestets, and Caribou. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the 2013 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. Born in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee in 1935, he currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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I was on the board of the World Bird Sanctuary, an organization on the preservation of raptors (thinks birds like hawks, falcons, great horned owls, and eagles). We met monthly at different locations, One month we met at the ranger’s station at Lone Elk County Park in far western St. Louis County.
Our meeting began at 4 p.m. and spilled over into the evening hours. I had to leave at 7:30, and as I stepped outside to go to the parking lot. I instantly realized two things: it was pitch black, with no outside light; and I was in the middle of something large and alive.
I froze in place, not knowing what to do, until the ranger’s car appeared on the road and I could see by his headlights. I was in the middle of the elk herd, which liked to come down to the station at night to sleep. Some were already asleep; others were standing on the sidewalk, blocking the way to my car. The park, by the way, was misnamed. There was no lone elk; there was actually a herd of about 100 elk.
With the light of the ranger’s car, I carefully made my way through the herd. If you’ve never seen one, adult elk are big, like horses, and I was meandering my way through them. Carefully. And smiling. “Nice elk. Good elk. Just let me get to my car and you can go back to sleep.” They gave me a rather bored eye and I made my escape.
Caribou, which we often call reindeer, are in the same family as moose, deer, and my herd of elk (or wapiti). Caribou have mostly vanished south of the Canadian border, but they are still to be found in Canada.
No poem in the collection bears the title “Caribou.” But it’s a fitting title nonetheless. These poems are about memory, what has passed, and what is gone, perhaps like the caribou gone from southern North America, memories all enclosed with descriptions and metaphors of nature.
These are the poems of old age, expressing few regrets except for friends now gone, reflecting on what has been. And even more are the pomes imagining the end-times, because for the individual, end-times in this world come with the individual’s death.
Here’s “Shadow and Smoke:”
Live your life as though you were already dead,
Che Guevara declared.
Okay, let’s see how that works.
Not much difference, as far as I can see,
the earth the same paradise
It’s always wanted to be,
Heaven as far away as before,
The clouds the same old movable gates since time began.
There is no circle, there is no sentiment to be broken.
There are only the songs of young men,
and the songs of old men,
Hoping for something elsewise.
Disabuse of them in their ignorance,
tell them the shadows are already gone, the smokes
Tell them that light is never a metaphor.
What does Wright say in these poems? That as we age, we realize life is less about what we achieve and do and more about who we are. That the answers to fundamental questions don’t become clearer but that accepting that the answers may not be understood becomes easier. That we will find ourselves listening more and talking less. That we owe a debt top those who came before us that we can never repay.
That perhaps life is really about acceptance, and we won’t realize that until the end.
I’ve said what I had to say
As melodiously as it was given to me.
I’ve said what I had to say
As far down as I could go.
I’ve been everywhere
I’ve wanted to but Jerusalem,
Which doesn’t exist, so I guess it’s time to depart,
Time to go,
Time to meet those you’ve never met,
time to say goodnight.
Grant us silence, grant us no reply,
Grant us shadows and their cohorts
stealth across the sky.
“Caribou” is Wright’s twenty-second collection of poetry (in addition to two translations and two work’s of non-fiction). He’s won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous poetry prizes. This new collection continues the stellar work he’s produced.
I consider my herd of elk again. How much of life is stepping into the darkness, sensing the presence of something large and incomprehensible and without any light to explain or make sense of it? That is, until a glimmer comes, and allows you to walk through the darkness. That’s what Charles Wright says in “Caribou.”
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