Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

Mapping Richard Wright’s Chicago

Posted on October 30, 2010 | No Comments

Jeremy Dean, one of the participants in our summer institute, has used Google maps to pinpoint and describe important places in Wright’s life in Chicago (1927-1937).

Click here to see the map

Richard Wright’s Haiku and Modernist Poetics

Posted on October 20, 2010 | No Comments

Yoshinobu HakutaniSaturday, November 20, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. CST
Taught by Yoshinobu Hakutani, Distinguished Professor of English at Kent State University

Wright learned how to write haiku from R. H. Blyth, who had published a number of books on Japanese haiku after World War II. Unlike Western romantic poetry and even the earlier Japanese poetry called waka, haiku, as Blyth observed, “is as near to life and nature as possible, as far from literature and fine writing as may be, so that the asceticism is art and the art is asceticism.” Blyth’s definition of haiku as an ascetic art means that classic haiku by such masters as Basho, Buson, and Issa, which Wright emulated, strictly concern objects and phenomena in nature. In composing a haiku the poet must, at first, observe an object or phenomenon in nature from a perspective devoid of thoughts and feelings. Only after the poet attains that stance and vision will the poet be able to achieve a harmonious union with nature. Although Wright emulated classic haiku, he consciously or unconsciously departed in many of his haiku from the classic poetics in which the poet effaces human subjectivity. Much like Ezra Pound, who wrote several haiku-like poems in which he expressed the subject’s desire, Wright wrote many haiku in which subjectivity is expressed through the use of a personal pronoun and the subject’s desire is evoked in an image that reflects subjectivity. Subjectivity and desire, its dominant construct, are both expressed through pronominal language rather than through an image in nature that embodies the real or the unconscious. Because Wright wrote haiku under the influences of classic Japanese haiku poets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps two thirds of his haiku can be categorized as traditionalist haiku, in which an image of nature is the focus of the poem and subjectivity is absent. The rest, a third of his haiku, might be called modernist.

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