Reading James Wright Ken Craft

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When Poets Make Cameos in Your Poems


It stands to reason, if you read poetry as much as poets do, that sooner or later famous poets will enter your poems. The cameos are not restricted to poets, however. Prose writers rise to the occasion as well. It’s a reimagining of their imagined worlds in your own imagination, if you will.

In my first book, appearances were made by Tolstoy, Turgenev, Pliny, and James Joyce. In the latest, it’s Hemingway and James Wright. The poem below, “Reading James Wright,” appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The MacGuffin, a fine journal of poetry and prose put out by Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. Subsequently the poem appeared in my latest collection, Lost Sherpa of Happiness.


Reading James Wright
by Ken Craft

I have been wandering with Wright
These two hours, under trees
Shadowy with women and dance. Soon it is dusk.
Somewhere horses
Move. The flint of hooves. The stone masking soft
He doesn’t know I am here, mistakes
Me for loneliness on a sturdy branch.
I leave him to his
Beautiful dark,
The dampness of give beneath my feet.


I felt a little sad writing it. For me “his beautiful dark” was the death Wright addressed so often in his poetry. And the “dampness of give beneath my feet” was meant as a metaphor for my own mortality–all of our mortalities–which will someday reunite us beneath the earth.

I can’t stress the importance of writers reading widely enough. When you read a collection by a poet you admire, you come under the writer’s spell. Sometimes the spell leads you to write yourself–about the conjurer. It’s one of the nine muses, I’m more than sure. The name is Greek to me, but you understand.




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