Poets on Poeting: Franz Wright

This week, I’d like to introduce (or reacquaint) you with a poem that rendered me honestly a little unsteady upon a first (and second. and third) reading. Nestled within Franz Wright’s 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, it is one of many stunning, raw works that explores belief, sadness and wonder. The following spoke to me immediately--its edges both sharp and soft-shorn, it alternately devastates and leaves me nodding my head, yes yes yes. What do you think? Does it match any experience you may have had some Sunday morning? Are we truly ‘created by being destroyed’?

January 1998

I am not acquainted with anyone
there, if they spoke to me
I would not know what to do.
But so far nobody has, I know
I certainly wouldn’t.
I don’t participate, I’m not allowed;
I just listen, and every morning
have a moment of such happiness, I breathe
and breath until the terror returns. About the time
when they are supposed to greet one another
two people actually look into each other’s eyes
and hold hands a moment, but
the church is so big and the few who are there
are seated far apart. So this presents no real problem.
I keep my eyes fixed on the great naked corpse, the vertical corpse
who is said to be love
and who spoke the world
into being, before coming here
to be tortured and executed by it.
I don’t know what I am doing there. I do
notice the more I lose touch
with what I previously saw as my life
the more real my spot in the dark winter pew becomes—
it is infinite. What we experience
as space, the sky
that is, the sun, the stars
is intimate and rather small by comparison.
When I step outside the ugliness is so shattering
it has become dear to me, like a retarded
child, precious to me.
If only I could tell someone.
The humiliation I go through
when I think about my past
can only be described as grace.
We are created by being destroyed.


  1. I like that. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. It's intriguing that he doesn't consider himself a part of the faith (not being allowed to participate), and yet he is so obviously drawn in, not once but repeatedly.

  2. I love this poem. Thanks for putting it on your blog.
    If you want to get some insight into Franz Wright's faith this is a most amazing piece from Image Magazine. http://imagejournal.org/page/journal/articles/issue-57/wright-essay