Some people just can't get enough of the Great Outdoors. But even if you're not a nature buff, you probably enjoy a pleasant stroll on a sunny day. Recent research confirms the therapeutic effects of spending time in nature. But nature isn't all sweetness and light; sometimes it's downright scary (just ask Captain Ahab). For poets, the relationship between humans and nature is a source of endless fascination. James Wright put it this way: "Oh, how I would love to be a chickadee! But I can't be a chickadee. All I can be is what I am […] so I'm a nature poet who writes about human beings in nature." In "A Blessing," Wright's speaker communes with ponies, instead of birds, but the same fascination and mystery emerges.
The great outdoors are really… great. "A Blessing" suggests that spending time in nature can make people happier by expanding their awareness and helping them feel that they are part of something larger than themselves.
On second thought, maybe those outdoors aren't all they're cracked up to be. "A Blessing" suggests that the human quest to find emotional fulfillment in the world of nature is doomed to disappointment; industrial society and our own analytical minds prevent us from fully appreciating the gifts of the natural world.
"It's not easy being green." Even if you're not a frog like Kermit, there have probably been times when you felt like one. The loneliness that comes from feeling left out is one of life's hardest emotions. As a teenager, James Wright suffered a mental breakdown and missed an entire year of high school. Though he eventually found success and happiness, he struggled with bouts of mental illness throughout his adult life. So it's not surprising to discover themes of isolation in his poetry. In "A Blessing," Wright acknowledges the reality of "loneliness" but doesn't dwell on it, focusing instead of the moments of grace that release us from the solitary confinement of living inside our own heads.
The barbed wire fence in "A Blessing" suggests that industrial society has permanently altered human consciousness, isolating mankind from the natural world. The speaker's action of stepping over the fence is merely temporary. It's a nice try and all, but ultimately the speaker remains mentally detached from the mysterious beauty of the pastoral setting.
The speaker in "A Blessing" overcomes the isolating effects of industrial society by stepping across the barbed wire fence into a mysterious world of nature. In that setting, the speaker experiences a spiritual vision of the connectedness of all things. Far out.
Love is such a simple word, but what does it really mean? There are so many kinds of love: you love your parents (at least some of the time), your little brother (occasionally), your cat (always!), your best friend, your boyfriend/girlfriend, and your favorite pair of jeans. Plus, there's the problem of distinguishing true love from fake love (good luck with that, Bachelorette!). Still, there's a fundamental simplicity about love that we all can grasp. In the words of Paul McCartney, "We don't need anybody else to tell us what is real. Inside each one of us is love. And we know how it feels." Based on the emotional heft of "A Blessing," we'd say that James Wright would probably agree. He concluded, "What else have we got except love?"
The speaker in "A Blessing" is deeply touched by the love that the Indian ponies display. Their love reminds the speaker of the importance of human love, flooding him with a renewed desire to reach out to other people. All you need is love, love…love is all you need.
The speaker in "A Blessing" has a spiritual revelation in the pasture, sensing a universal spirit of love that connects all living creatures. Cosmic, dude.
Who wouldn't want to be a superhero? Seriously! At a moment's notice, you transform from a mild-mannered nobody into an incredibly powerful (and usually quite attractive) champion who saves the world. Of course, transformation is not without drawbacks. There's the whole kryptonite thing. And transformation can involve a dangerous loss of control (Hulk SMASH!). Even if you don't aspire to become a superhero, life is change, and every moment offers choices that define who you will become. Of course, we all have our comfort zones—limits on our willingness to accept emotional risks and embrace change. As he contemplates stepping out of his body, how would you describe the comfort zone of the speaker in "A Blessing"? How would you describe your own attitude toward this kind of radical transformation?
The speaker in "A Blessing" senses a mysterious power of love in nature but maintains an intellectual distance from it. Using a poetic image to acknowledge the beauty of the experience, the speaker nonetheless refuses to surrender a rational view of the universe. Nice try, though.
Actually, props are due in full. The speaker in "A Blessing" overcomes fear of change and undergoes a process of personal transformation; by the end of the poem, the speaker has developed a new closeness to nature and openness to love.