APRIL IS POETRY MONTH: Franz Wright's 'Learning to Read'

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APRIL IS POETRY MONTH: Franz Wright's 'Learning to Read'

A window onto the childhood of Franz Wright, who turned sixty last year and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for Walking to Martha's Vineyard. This poem appears in F, his newest collection.

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Learning to Read


If I had to look up every fifth or sixth word

so what. I looked them up.

I had nowhere important to be.


My father was unavailable, and my mother

looked like she was about to break,

and not into blossom, each time I spoke.


My favorite was The Iliad. True,

I had trouble pronouncing the names;

but when was I going to pronounce them, and


to whom? 

My stepfather maybe?

Number one, he could barely speak English -


two, he had sufficient cause

to smirk or attack

without prompting from me.


Loneliness boredom and fear

my motivation

fiercely fueled.


I get down on my knees and thank God for them.


Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke.

Life has taught me

to understand books.

More on this poem and author:


Excerpt from F. Copyright (c) 2013 by Franz Wright. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, LLC., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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