In his first letter about James Wright to his friend, Ricky, Mike Judge addresses James Wright’s “strong and unyielding passion for writing and reading literature.” Mike also writes of Wright, “It becomes very clear in his work that it was his fuel. It was what got him through wonderful days, and even through days of great trial.” –TW
January 25, 2010
Hello again, brother! I’m so excited to be sharing my thoughts with you on this fine day. Today marks the embarking of a personal exploration of an old, yet new, form of communication. Yes, this is the first time that I have ever written a personal letter to anyone aside from a thank you note, and I’m glad that you get to be my recipient. As I explained to you briefly in person, throughout this semester I will be getting to write a series of letters in response to a remarkable man by the name of James Wright. In future letters I will be reflecting on his highly artistic letters and poems. However, today I simply wish to discuss his life with you. Through reading some of his work, as well as the foreword and preface of his combinative book of his personal letters to friends and acquaintances, A Wild Perfection, and engaging in class discussion, I have acquired a medley of intriguing information on the man and the path of life that he chose to follow. He has proven to be an abstract and rare breed of man, but it is for these qualities that he steals so much admiration from my heart.
Without a doubt, what strikes me most about James Wright is that he had such a strong and unyielding passion for writing and reading literature. It becomes very clear in his work that it was his fuel. It was what got him through wonderful days, and even through days of great trial. Included in A Wild Perfection is a letter that James wrote to his mother as a teenager in the military. From it, the reader can see hints of Wright’s love for letters even as a youth. He writes, “My mail is beginning to seep through a little, but I could use more. You must understand how much even one flimsy letter means…” Here, Wright writes that even though he is getting a steady stream of letters, his hunger for them is not satisfied. As I said before, letters (along with literature in general) are his fuel. In a large number of his early letters he urges his friends and family to write more regularly. Letters are what got him through the days. They were his connections to the outside world, and a place for him to lay out his constant flow of philosophical ideas. Literature was easily one of the greatest treasures of his life, and what a beautiful treasure it is to have.
I truly respect Wright’s passion for giving back to others as well. His wife, Anne, talks about how he would, for hours at a time, give feedback to all sorts of aspiring poets regarding their poems in progress. As an acclaimed poet, it would be easy for Wright to neglect his fans in this manner. Sure, reading fan mail isn’t too bad, but spending the countless hours that it would take to respond to all of his fans’ poems that they wanted to be proofread is a much larger task. Such selflessness is to be admired of a man. As you are well aware, Ricky, it is one of my greatest ambitions to live a life of serving those around me. I want to be a man who works to constructively build up others even at my own expense. I love service and would never choose a life without it. This is why Wright strikes an even deeper chord in my heart: he seems to be a man of great character.
From what little I’ve read of his work thus far, I can already identify another key piece of his character. His philosophical and deep thinking mind was constantly musing over different aspects and realities of life. Thus, I see now that Wright was a man of great depth. Even if the topic of his writing was dark, he would write his art anyways; never overly offensive, yet never censoring his topic to the point where it no longer held its same meaning. He was real and he was deep. This approach is one that I wish to apply to my future work as well. I feel that in order to both impact and transform the world in a way that I wish to requires such authenticity and truth that no man can earnestly deny it. I wish to strike deep chords in the hearts of men and have them connect with the realities that I present to them. It is my goal to be honest and real in the books that I have planned, sermons I wish to give, and in the biblical studies that I actively develop.
Learning about this man’s life has truly given me some inspiration for my own writing career. In Saundra Rose Maley’s (scholar) introduction to the book, she wrote one simple line that struck out to me significantly. In regards to Wright, she says, “He read widely and wrote daily, mostly sonnets, while enduring the rigors of army life.” For me personally, I read very regularly in a large gamut of topics (“read widely”). However, I seldom get to write for pleasure because of the way my life is currently set up. Almost all of my time each day is committed to school, work, or ministry responsibilities. Reading this single line sets my brain into a cyclone of thoughts about how my life might be if I, like Wright, made great efforts to write for pleasure on a daily basis. How would I evolve as an author? What could I accomplish then? My heart races. I wish to find out, to receive the treasure that is hidden behind this wall.
It is interesting to see how simply reading about another man’s life can trigger such thoughts about one’s own life. I suppose analyzing and thinking about the things that Wright lived for makes me think about the things that I live for; and similarly, reflecting on the principles that Wright made most president in his life causes me to think of the values that I hold dearest. I would be happy to live a life where I would write every day; and I would be happy to live a life where I could help and serve other people and, most importantly, the God whom we both serve. I don’t know for certain if we’ve yet spoken of this, but reading of Wright’s life ambitions certainly causes me to think of my own. For years I have known that I’ve wanted to use writing to communicate Truth to the world, but I haven’t always known what writing conduit I would use. Frankly, this is because there is no one conduit that I plan on using. Why should a man who carries such a passionate heart for writing confine himself in one spectrum of it? There is no reason to. Rather, I plan on exploring in each one of the varied forms of writing that I hold dear and use them to accomplish both of my greatest ambitions. Hopefully the day is near for this adventure to unfold, for my heart is anxious to set off on its course.
Ricky, I challenge you to think about the man who you are setting yourself up to grow into. What kind of man do you desire to be? Who, today, are you taking steps towards becoming? Simply exploring fragments of James Wright’s life has inspired me to ask myself these questions, and having just explored them to myself, I would also encourage you to do the same.
Fare thee well, brother. As always, you are in my prayers.