Lying In A Hammock At William Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

– James Wright (1927-1980)

An exchange between Wright and an interviewer (scroll down):

Henricksen: I wanted to ask you about one specific poem that you read the other night … You talked about the final line, "I have wasted my life," as being, perhaps, a realization that more time ought to be spent lying in a hammock, as I remember.

Wright: Yes, I think that I didn’t realize it at the moment, but looking back on that poem I think that final line – "I have wasted my life" – is a religious statement, that is to say, here I am and I’m not straining myself and yet I’m happy at this moment, and perhaps I’ve been wastefully unhappy in the past because through my arrogance or whatever, and in my blindness, I haven’t allowed myself to pay true attention to what was around me. And a very strange thing happened. After I wrote the poem and after I published it, I was reading among the poems of the eleventh-century Persian poet, Ansari, and he used exactly the same phrase at a moment when he was happy. He said, "I have wasted my life." Nobody gave him hell for giving up iambics. You can’t win.

from Bruce Henricksen, "Poetry Must Think" (an interview with James Wright published in 1978)

(Thanks to Mr. CVR.)

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