(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The title figure of Saint Judas, the paradox of the consecrated villain, reflects much of the spirit of this book. The poems are arranged in three sections which, at first, do not seem to have much connection: “Lunar Changes,” “A Sequence of Love Poems,” and “The Part Nearest Home.” They ultimately disclose continuity, both internally and with Wright’s previous work. Formally and thematically, the links to the past are quite clear. Wright is still working primarily with traditional formal patterns, still approaching poetry as if it consisted of art objects carved carefully by the artist out of all the resources of language. His subjects remain death, loss, the suffering intrinsic to life, and the way these experiences bind all life into a single sheaf.

Near the end of “Lunar Changes,” one poem, “The Revelation,” provides a key. The speaker is meditating about his dead father, recalling how anger continues to divide the two of them. Even as he feels the anger rising again, a beam of moonlight illuminates a vision of his father weeping and reaching out to him. As they embrace, formerly barren apple boughs shed petals. Love can overcome even the separation of death; through love, death can be a solvent for life, unifying all living things in its embrace. Death may even be necessary for the existence of love.

This bridges into “A Sequence of Love Poems,” which needs the title, because otherwise few readers would...

(The entire section is 582 words.)