Sunday, September 12, 2010

Beginning Again by Franz Wright

From what I could tell upon first reading this poem, Wright was just another crazy poet, experiencing serious emotional and mental suffering, about which he absolutely HAD to make some eccentric story about for his own satisfaction.

He begins his poem by bringing to light some confusing thoughts. “’If I could stop talking, completely cease talking for a year, I might begin to get well,’ he muttered.” Well what exactly is he recovering from? Physical trauma? Emotional abuse? Mental hardships? Thank you, Mr. Wright, for being so excessively vague and therefore making it that much harder for me to speculate your purposes.

Anyways, he then goes on to say that he, whoever “he” is, is now going off to perform brain surgery on himself in a “small badly lit room with no mirror,” but whose walls and ceiling were mirrors themselves. “…what a mess oh my God--” EXACTLY what I was thinking Mr. Wright! But I seriously doubt he was referring to a literal brain surgery, with the scalpels and the saws and the blood. I feel like this is more a metaphorical surgery, blindly hacking and tearing, frantically searching for something hidden deep within the mind. If that is the case, then the first sentence would make more sense in context, since silence would probably be beneficial to this “surgery.” But I have to admit that I finished reading the first stanza hoping that Wright was about to give me a better insight into his demented imagery.

Alas, his second stanza is nothing but a convoluted question. “And still it stands, the question not how begin again, but rather Why?” Wright seems to be putting emphasis on this point. Maybe because many people somehow figure out how to begin again, but sometimes never really know why because they are so focused on their goal. However, I am not entirely sure what Wright actually means by this, it was definitely a confusing section. Of course it all related to the title, which is more than I could concretely say for the first part of the poem. So I started thinking about how you could jump from the musings of a wannabe monk/ brain surgeon to those of a deep, insightful thinker. And I decided I didn’t really want to think about that quite yet, so I kept reading.

His third stanza is like the glue of the poem, the most illuminating part. “So we sit there together, the mountain and me, Li Po said, until only the mountain remains.” I utilized the obvious question, who is Li Po and why is he sitting with a mountain, to help me pursue a deeper, overall meaning. What I came up with was that Li Po was the “he” of this poem, the contemplative speaker. He wanted to do a little soul searching (if only he could shut his trap for a consecutive 365 days), but ended up spending his life with his thoughts, letting the world pass him by until it was, again, only the mountain.

But Wright’s and Li Po’s thoughts were somehow conflicting: Li Po is contemplating his new beginning, whatever that may be, and Wright is perceiving it as a self-inflicted death trap. It seemed that Wright was trying to warn people against taking their lives for granted, and advising them to live before it’s too late. Maybe Wright was having some personal regrets about his own decisions, or maybe he was lamenting the decisions of a friend, but it appeared, to me, that he was cautioning his readers against falling into the same trap that Li Po did, against overthinking this new beginning.


  1. Hmmmm. Maybe. I think you're on to something!

  2. Franz Wright read his poems in Cambridge and, because I am sober today, I was able to listen and learn from this gentleman. Not sure when he's reading again but try hard to see him!