I never thought he got away with much,
James Wright, not between a breakdown at sixteen,
likely his bipolar surfacing, then booze, that twisted crutch
on which his chronic symptoms perched to preen
their agitated feathers, reiterated to age fifty-three,
when cancer of the tongue shut him up but good.
Now she busts Wright in this workshop: sentimentality!
Why are we reading this long-dead clown who stood
witness for bugs, empathized with old grasshoppers….their thighs
are burdened, with bitter working-stiffs who drank,
brawled reflexively, finished unemployed, the eyes
of pasture horses he imagined lonely? They stank,
those soppy poems of his, underscored the wasted words
and life. Those golden stones at Duffy’s, merely turds.
Paul Watsky won the NYU Writing Prize about 45 years ago.