The Minneapolis Poem

Wright, James

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Nov-08-1995
  • Last revised: Jan-10-2007


A seven-part poem reflecting facets of indigence, homelessness, and helplessness. "How many old men last winter / Hungry and frightened by namelessness prowled / The Mississippi shore . . . ? " This poem enters into the lives of the nameless persons who live in the same place, but not the same world as the "Walker Art Center crowd." The speaker cries out that he "could not bear / To allow my poor brother my body to die . . . . " Even here, in the midst of his desperation, the speaker finds a glimmer of possibility: "I want to be lifted up / By some great white bird . . . . "


This is an exceptionally moving poem about poverty and homelessness. It is a good companion piece to Wright's, In Terror of Hospital Bills (see this database) which originally appeared in the same collection. Much of the work in Shall We Gather at the River deals with the experience of being down-and-out and alone at mid-century in middle America. This poem is an affirmation of individuality and integrity despite the brutal facts of existence.

Primary Source

Shall We Gather at the River


Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Middletown, Conn.