As is common with many creative artists who change their style after acquiring a following of fans who like the “old” ways, criticism can be quick and harsh. Wright had his share of bad reviews after publishing his third book, The Branch Will Not Break, which marked a very vivid turning point in his poetry. In “The Work of James Wright,” an article by fellow poet and friend Robert Bly, the writer describes the views of two particular critics who did not like Wright’s new style: “Many reviewers watched this move with hostility,” Bly said. “Larry Rubin, Jr., American scholar from Hollins College, … said of Wright: ‘… he has gone off on a tangent, it seems to me. He has completely abdicated the job of giving meaning to what he describes….’ [Critic] Thom Gunn [stated]: ‘In The Branch Will Not Break, Wright has pretty well reversed his attitude to style and content…. He is far from being interested in moral questions now, and there is a deliberate avoidance of anything resembling thought.’”
Despite these two similar reproofs, however, Wright’s poetry in general—and Branch in particular— was, and still is, very highly regarded by writers, scholars, and the poetry-reading public. In Peter Stitt’s article, “James Wright: The Quest Motif in The Branch Will Not Break,” the critic states that this book of poems “… is generally regarded as marking [Wright’s] transformation into an...
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