American Culture · American Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Excerpt · Interview · Paraphrase · Passage · Poetics · Quote · Writing

Charles Wright

Thinking about the past is inherently sentimental–one always wishes things had been more of the same, less of the same, or partially or altogether otherwise, if only because we somehow believe the past, our past, still cares for us, as we care for it. This differs it from thinking about the desert, which we know does not care anything about anyone, anyway, or anyhow. One likes to think that the eye one casts on things above and below is the eye the desert casts–cold, hard, and unencumbered by time and events. Alas. The twin cataracts of desire and sadness all too often filter and realign the view. Probably just as well. The contour map of the past, with its transverse mercator projections, is the toughest terrain there is. To visit it seriously is literally to take your life in your hands. I remember once, some years ago … — Charles Wright, from “Miseducation of the Poet,” Quarter Notes: Improvisations and Interviews (University of Michigan Press, 1995)

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