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In his essay on two prose poems by James Wright ["Of Two Sublimities," APR, July/August 2014], Laurence Lieberman cites Catullus as the source for Wright's image of "the tall slender cypresses that a poet here once called candles of darkness." I can find no such image in Catullus, but it stands out conspicuously in the prose of another poet, D. H. Lawrence, writing about Catullus's region, the Lago di Garda: "It is so still and transcendent, the cypress trees poise like flames of forgotten darkness, that should have been blown out at the end of the summer. For as we have candles to light the darkness of night, so the cypresses are candles to keep the darkness aflame in the full sunshine" (Twilight in Italy and Other Essays, ed. Paul Eggert [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994], 154).


Saratoga Springs, NY

Many thanks to Terence Diggory for his very helpful discovery of the comments in D. H. Lawrence's essay, which--I agree--surely must have been in James Wright's memory when he wrote the prose poem "A Small Grove." Quite a few of Wright's prose poems are steeped in his love of Catullus's writings, and therefore I mistakenly ascribed the phrase "candles of darkness" to Catullus. But Wright's love of Lawrence's travel writings is evident, as well, and I'd just taken note of his probable debt to Lawrence's beautiful book Etruscan Places in writing my essay about Wright's prose poem, "Beside the Tour Magne in Nimes."


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Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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