Title: Wright's 'A Blessing,'Author(s): David Pink Publication Details: in The Explicator 54.1 (Fall 1995): p44-45.Source:
. Ed. Elisabeth Gellert. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. From
Literature Resource Center
.Document Type: Critical essay
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning[(essay date 1995)
In the following essay, Pink discusses "A Blessing," focusing on thesignificance of boundaries in the poem, and on the instances of transgressing them.
is perhaps James Wright's best known poem. It certainly embodies his greateststrength: the poet evoking nature as an inroad to the metaphysical or numinous. Wright is, ingeneral and in this poem in particular, a poet of epiphany in the grand Yeatsian tradition.
culminates with the poet's wish to step out of his body and "break into blossom."There can be no doubt, given the poet's spoken wish for natural communication with an Indianpony, "I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms," that he is seeking transcendencethrough nature into a new connection with nature.Although the speaker of the poem is wistfully serious, the poem is touched by situational irony.The metaphysical or religious communion between human and horse occurs "just off thehighway," a manmade avenue of highspeed commerce. The encounter between the poet andnature
take place "just off" that highway, to amplify the gulf between man and nature.Furthermore, the horses are enclosed in "barbed wire"; the poet and his friend must transgress anunnatural boundary to enter into the natural setting. The artificial boundary of the fence, butmore important, the limits of being--of otherness--between the horses, "they can hardly containtheir happiness," and the poet who wants to transcend himself almost dissolve. It is a credit toWright's poetic sensibility that they do not.The persona of
is an interloper. By crossing the boundary of the fence, desiring tocross the boundaries of being, and also by calling the ponies "Indian," he seeks to cross theboundaries of difference, ownership, authorship, and time. Many of these definitions are relativeto the history of relations between Whites and Indians. The poet is a white man crossing theultimate symbol of usurpation of Indian lands and crucifactory emblem of ownership, the barbedwire fence, hoping to re-encounter, (regain?) the imagined/supposed/hoped-for bond that theIndian peoples had with nature.It is difficult for the reader not to hear the wheels spinning on the highway as background for thepoet's desire to shut out the world even as he soulfully embraces it, by becoming somethingusually regarded as beautiful yet mindless--a blossom. What the poet desires is beauty untaintedby consciousness.Such a desire for reincarnation is in a sense (especially considering Richard Hugo'sreminiscences about Wright's alcoholism) painful. It is fabulous to think of Indian ponies asbeing "hardly [able to] contain their happiness / That we have come" and even more so to equateor metaphorize the "slenderer one" as a girl: "Her mane falls wild on her forehead ... her long ear