Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Franz Wright
Dear Editor,
I am writing in response to Averill Curdy’s recent review of Fady Joudah’s The Earth in the Attic [“Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?” February 2009], and writing from sheer incredulity. Like the celebrated work of previous younger poets for whom English was not their mother tongue (Andrei Codrescu’s first two collections come to mind), poets who were obviously bound to produce major work in the future, Joudah has mastered a unique form of syntax that is sometimes elliptical but always transcends any question of technically correct grammar. May I point out that neither Louise Glück, who selected Joudah’s book for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, nor the very exacting editors of Field and the New Yorker, where many of the poems were originally published, seemed to be troubled by his “weak grammar”? Joudah, like Charles Simic before him, is bound to use English in an inventive, different, and occasionally “incorrect” way; that is, if you happen to be reading his work in the manner of one of those who unimaginatively insists on strict observance of formal rules—a pedant, in other words. And if Curdy had been discussing the work of a native English speaker, I frankly very much doubt that the question of grammar would have arisen at all.

Waltham, Massachusetts

Originally Published: April 1, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009

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Biography

Franz Wright’s collections of poetry include The Beforelife (2001), God’s Silence (2006), and Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. He has received a Whiting Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for his poetry. Wright has translated poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke and Rene Char; in 2008 he and his wife, Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright, co-translated a collection by the Belarusian . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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