Recovering Berryman Essays On A Poet

If her essays refuse the notion of hunger as discarnation or disembodiment in favour of something more immersively physical, her poems have likewise always suggested a writer interested in writing against language’s discarnation, in seeking ways of making writing approach and hold the body.

The vivid, stripped-back clarity of her first collection, , attends obsessively to what she calls, in her poem ‘West Coast’, the ‘brutally specific’.

This problem—how to escape the body while living within it, how to think abstraction with embodiment—is, in many ways, the problem of hunger.

This is why many theorists of hunger, particularly those who approach it with an interest in its literary or cultural dimensions, argue that the logic of hunger is fundamentally ascetic: a reduction or mortification of the body that aims to transcend its limitations or do away with its worldly foibles.

One of the refrains of the collection’s first essay, ‘In Colombo’, is the gap between embodiment and what she calls abstraction.

It is the problem posed by her relocation to this much poorer country.

Ascesis, as Anthony could tell you, paradoxically foregrounds the body.

For all that hunger imagines itself to be an act of disembodiment, a denial of the body and its fleshly demands, its effects are quite different.

As the essays move restlessly between cities—Colombo, Berlin, Sydney—and between moments in the author’s life, Wright uses the lenses of literature, medicine, history, and literary criticism to probe the embodied experience of hunger and its grim attraction.

Wright’s attention to the physicality of hunger gives this collection its peculiar oscillating tension.


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