This collection brings together the three poetry collections Charles Wright published during the 1980s: The Southern Cross (1981), The Other Side of the River (1984), and Zone Journals(1988). Also, at the end, there is something short (a chapbook?) called Xionia which reads as part and parcel of Zone Journals, down to titling various poems as ‘journals.’
When I saw him read at the Library of Congress, I mentioned how much the poems from Zone Journals reminded me of the Cantos. Having just finished the book, I can say that every book he published in eighties was pregnant with Pound’s influence.
Besides their shared love of Italy, the style is very Poundian, with the Whitman-esque lines, only dripping with allusion and a sort of distant nostalgia for a place that maybe you never even knew.
But Wright is not Pound and I wish I had not read it so aware of Pound and therefore reading Pound through him because, even though Wright is genius, there are geniuses and there are geniuses. Wright is the former. Pound is the latter.
Wright’s semi-Cantos mix landscapes and memories from his early years in Appalachia, from time living in Montana – a sort of rural, hardscrabble, American mythopoetic time – with time from his years in the military posted in Italy and latter years studying literature in Rome. The balance can sometimes be uneasy (though the balance of everything in the Cantos, to be fair, is also uneasy), though.
The genius in this is not the monumental historical scope of Pound, but a more interior view. But an interior view of the exterior world. The environment filtered through memory. A couple of times, he mentions vaseline, as in vaseline-colored light or seeing things as if through vaseline. Now, he doesn’t strike me as movie obsessed guy, so I don’t think this a reference to a camera trick to make actors look younger, but rather a way to try and explain the haze of temporal distance and memory.