Improbable Epiphany: reconfiguring the End in a poem by Charles Wright


Charles Wright Bye-and-Bye:
Selected Late Poems (2011)

In reading a poem we don a mask that reconfigures one’s sense of reality. We participate in our own forsaking. Which is a tall order. Wright reconfigures our immediate sense of our personal end at first in deeply unsatisfactory ways.

But how otherwise? The poem keeps going along in its maladroit way. The first sentence sort of cruises into a ditch of nonsense. Yet along the way he’s reconfigured this penultimate moment, teetering on embarrassed silence. Well, it’s a difficult topic!

Next he returns to the opening metaphor for another verse (it’s like a country song). This time there’s a kind of epiphany. The sentence limps along, coming to rest in a place full comfort and beauty. We’ve come to see our special moment shorn of sentiment, shorn of ego. The mimesis is perfect for there is no ego at this moment.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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