“I’m not saying that Edward Thomas is a great poet. He’s not Aeschylus, he’s not Shakespeare, he’s not Neruda. Well, neither am I. Who is? And there’s a sense in which one ought to be able to say, who has to be? We should be able to listen to people’s music for its own sake.” 
“I was born in America, and so I am lost.” 
Wright’s notebook description of a dream he had the day before entering Mount Sinai hospital for treatment of the cancer that would ultimately kill him: “No matter which way I turn, or what window I look out of or hallway I stare down, trying to catch a glimpse of something in the light, the dark man appears there…. I looked out the window and saw him under a tree, made of leaves and twine. Down the hallway he appeared only for a moment. He turned his face in my direction and just as suddenly he was gone, leaving nothing but a ring of gold around the light.” 
* Wright on the prospect of dying before finishing three books then in progress: “I believe that in two or three months I could complete the manuscripts of the book of critical prose and the book of poems. Before I lose the ability to function. Death is a nuisance.” 
Stanley Kunitz on Wright’s poems: “Behind all of them is the manifestation of his spirit, that psychic energy that flowed from him and that continues to flow from his poems. Jim Wright was a poet who was not putting on the page something for ornament or even for simple pleasure. He was writing in order to discover what he really believed in and what could save him. He was writing out of a primal need, and that distinguishes Jim from those who use poetry for technical or ornamental gratifications. It’s a distinguishing characteristic. Poetry has to be a search for true values. It has to be an art of transformation and of transcendence.” 
* Wright commenting on a note from a woman with whom he’d once been in love: “What a dazzling gift for conveying what the life of the emotions really is—a rich chaos of contradiction, insoluble in rationalistic terms, horrible in its agony, yet somehow fiercely precious beyond grief, or tears.” Beyond the many dozens of passages like these throughout the book, there many like this one—an example of Blunk’s own extraordinary skills as a writer. He is describing Anne and James Wright’s arrival at Italy’s Lake Garda in May 1979:
As they approached the lake in late afternoon sunlight, the Garda Mountains appeared to the north, above the vineyards, olive groves, and orchards that lined the road. The medieval Castello Scaligero stands beside Il Grifone hotel on the lakeshore, with swallowtail crenelations along the castle walls and swans circling the moat. The oleander, bougainvillea, and honeysuckle were just beginning to bloom, bright and fragrant beneath the silver shadows of the pines and sycamores that lined the footpaths and dirt roads, with brittle grasses bleached nearly white and a faint smell of rosemary. Throughout this amazing, affecting, insightful book, Blunk weaves multiple strands of detail together like one of Wright’s own spiders, doing his work almost secretly so the story can tell itself. I recommend having handy a copy of Wright’s posthumous complete poems, Above the River, as you read. And in case you haven’t read James Wright, or haven’t read him a long long time, here’s one of my favorites:
I was only a young man In those days. On that evening The cold was so God damned Bitter there was nothing. Nothing. I was in trouble With a woman, and there was nothing There but me and dead snow.
I stood on the street corner In Minneapolis, lashed This way and that. Wind rose from some pit, Hunting me. Another bus to Saint Paul Would arrive in three hours, If I was lucky.
Then the young Sioux Loomed beside me, his scars Were just my age.
Ain’t got no bus here A long time, he said. You got enough money To get home on?
What did they do To your hand? I answered. He raised up his hook into the terrible starlight And slashed the wind.
Oh, that? he said. I had a bad time with a woman. Here, You take this.
Did you ever feel a man hold Sixty-five cents In a hook, And place it Gently In your freezing hand?
I took it. It wasn’t the money I needed. But I took it.
[Above the River, 315-316]