I lay half the worm aside

CD Wright, whom I was fortunate to know for a time, has come up again in a strain of my recent reading–namely, expatriate longings. I appreciate David Biespiel’s reading of CD’s poem, “Song of the Gourd,” because he identifies her stance toward her Arkansas birthplace as “someone who has survived it—not…one crippled from it, physically or psychically.” In other words, one can come from a place that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t value what one wants to become (artist, intellectual, Ivy League professor in CD’s case), and one can look back on that place with a measured eye–not sentimental, but affectionate, and not angry. Or not only angry.

“This is not a poetry of agony and misery but a poetry of idiomatic confidence by one who thinks no lasting harm was done to her,” writes Bespiel.

In CD’s words:

I lay half the worm aside and sought the rest

This is instructive. The redemption of art lies not in complaint for its own sake. As another of my favorite writers, Merrill Gilfillan, put it, “I have often felt that the First Flight of writers work from fierce affection. This is far more difficult than it sounds. Following flights work from disaffection, predilection, obsession, indigestion, etc.”

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