May/June 2019 • Vol. XLI No. 3 Review |

Two Poets by the Lake

James Wright: A Life in Poetry. Jonathan Blunk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 512 pp. $40.00. Our bodies, too, our moulted bodies, spread their loins and wings below, to free the soul. — “A Love Poem with Mallards and Garlands,” 299 This is how pudgy poet James Wright, an awkward, shy man described a tryst with his slender and super-sexy poet-friend Carolyn Kizer at Lake Washington in Seattle in the mid-1950s. In “A Love Poem with Mallards and Garlands,” Wright imagined their loving coupling at the “hinge of the green lake,” with dusk “fallen softly away” and “ripples of water” that “bounce to moss and rock” (298). With melancholy overtones of Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” Wright romanticizes, compares Kizer and himself to his beloved birds, symbols of the soul, who die orgasmically, only to rise up and “Heave at the earth to find the sun again” (300). Wright thought his poem “linguistically the boldest thing I’ve ever

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Photo of Marian Janssen
Marian Janssen is a Dutch writer. She published The Kenyon Review 1939–1970: A Critical History in 1989 and spent the next twenty years or so as the head of Radboud University’s international office. During that period, she wrote Not at All What One Is Used To: The Life and Times of Isabella Gardner. Spurred by a fan mail from Carolyn Kizer’s daughter, Ashley Bullitt, Janssen decided to become a full-time biographer and now is writing the life of Kizer.

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