When Charles Wright was named poet laureate in mid-June, some readers wondered what this refined, meditative writer would bring to the position. Why not an activist poet instead?
Caribou, Wright’s newest collection, provides a quietly powerful response. The first part of the answer, as Wright fans know, is keen observation. Every poem shimmers with carefully rendered details from evocative landscapes that suggest a reality beyond the one we see. The opening poem hints at this duality:
No darkness steps out of the woods,
no angel appears.
I listen, no word, I look, no thing.
Eternity must be hiding back there, it’s done so before.
The search for something larger leads Wright to familiar themes: the transience of life, a longing for the divine, the challenge of abiding in contentment and finding light in the dark.
Each section builds slowly, carefully, as the poems recount simple satisfactions, demonstrate the power and limitations of language, and preserve, for a while, beautifully fleeting moments and mirages.
As the speaker looks back over his life, he ponders changing seasons and endings, and notes that
Whatever has given you comfort,
Whatever has rested you,
Whatever untwisted your heart
is what you will leave behind.
Those lines, like all of the poems in this book, are an eloquent reminder of what deeply thoughtful writing brings to a fast-paced world. “Caribou” forces readers to slow down, breathe, and find a sense of balance even as the outside world seems to slip away.