Letter from Poetry Magazine

Averill Curdy Responds

by Averill Curdy
Averill Curdy responds:
Having received a flurry of bullying personal e-mails several years ago from Franz Wright after I wrote a less-than-adulatory review of his work, it is with some trepidation that I respond now.

I approached both books I reviewed in February’s issue uninfluenced by the stamp of received authority or prestige, as any serious reader should. While I found a great deal to admire, the work raised larger questions that interested me, both as a poet and critic.

I read the poetry according to the terms the work itself established and explained those terms as I understood them. I never once mentioned “incorrect” or “weak” grammar in discussing Fady Joudah’s poems, only the effect of “imprecise grammar or syntax” in the very specific context of the way in which he deploys his images.

Though it is hardly worth mentioning that creative use of syntax is essential to the poet’s art, I don’t believe that imprecision is a form of invention. My comment fed into a larger point, neither addressed nor acknowledged by Wright, that such imprecision muddies the very thought or feeling the image is intended to express. Many poets rely on the concatenation of images as a primary mode; the potential limitation of this reliance prompted the essay.

It’s clear, too, that formal originality isn’t Joudah’s priority in The Earth in the Attic.

A letter that begins by criticizing me for not keeping in mind that English isn’t Joudah’s mother tongue, and that ends by damning me for apparently keeping it too much in mind, made me wonder what in these poems suggested to Wright that Joudah doesn’t have a fluent command of English? Finally, does such an accomplished person—poet, doctor, translator, and advocate—really require this sort of special pleading from Franz Wright?
Originally Published: April 1, 2009

Poetry is looking for thought-provoking responses to work published in the magazine, as well as letters that raise new questions about the state of contemporary poetry. To send us your letter, please fill out all the fields below.

If we choose to use your letter, we will notify you by phone. If you have not heard from us within two weeks of sending your letter, you may assume we will not be using it. All letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may appear online, in print, or both.

Please do NOT send poetry submissions to this account. See Submission Guidelines for further information and policies regarding poetry submissions.


* All fields are required


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

April 2009


Audio Events
 Averill  Curdy


A lyric poet influenced by Donne, Hopkins, Merrill, and Auden, Averill Curdy notes, “In my own work, the aural quality and weight of words is very important and I think it’s partly an attempt to make them feel as material as the smears of color on a painter’s palette.” Her meditative, dense lines are smoothed by time; as Curdy explains, “I write slowly—always, it seems, at the very limit of what I know.”

Curdy began to write . . .

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.