The Bigness of Small Poems – # 28 in a Series – The Delicacy and Ferocity of Franz Wright

Brazilian Novelist Clarice Lispector. Photo Credit: The New Yorker

Brazilian Novelist Clarice Lispector (1920-1977). Photo Credit: The New Yorker

I’m trembling with fear.  Just as well that what I’m about to write is already somehow written within me. What I have to do is copy myself out with the delicacy of a white butterfly.

Clarice Lispector from The Hour of the Star,  New Directions, 2011

I am addicted to great quotes on writing, especially poetry! The first quote I want to highlight to celebrate National Poetry Month is by Clarice Lispector, a Brazialian novelist who had the heart of a poet and whose poetic turn of phrase was exemplary.

My prayer for myself this month and for all poets is that we in our writing exemplify what it is to copy out ourselves with the delicacy of a white butterfly; and may I add, sometimes, with the brute ferocity of a tiger!

A man who had both the delicacy and ferocity was American poet and Pulitzer poetry prize winner, Franz Wright, son of poet James Wright, also a winner of the Pulitzer for poetry. They are only son and father to have both been so honoured.

American poet Franz Wright. Photo credit: The New York Times

American poet Franz Wright (1951-2015) . Photo credit: The New York Times

Franz, like his father battled addiction for most of his life. He has many poems describing his journey from addiction to recovery but none as precise and ferocious as this one. A great example of a small poem that punches way above of its weight! The bigness of a small poem!


My name is Franz, and I’m a recovering asshole.
I’m a ghost
that everyone can see;
one of the rats
who act
like they own the place.

Franz Wright from The Beforelife, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002

When I first read this piece by Wright  I was silenced by this subversive definition of an addict. I have to say I think this definition could include a lot more than alcoholic or drug addict assholes but it works so well as an “issness” to describe someone “under the influence”.

On this first day of poetry month in 2017 I celebrate the searing honesty of Franz Wright. His fearless ability to let himself be copied out so clearly.