Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Photo by Holly Wright
Charles Wright's poetry collections include Country Music, Black Zodiac, Chickamauga, Bye-and-Bye: Selected Later Poems, Sestets, and Caribou. His prizes include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the 2013 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. Born in Pickwick Dam, Tennesee in 1935, he currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.Highly respected poet Charles Wright is a poet's poet. He attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, was inspired by Ezra Pound and Dante, and has a solid reputation. He is from Tennessee originally, and taught at the University of Virginia until retirement. Craig Morgan Teicher describes the use of time in Wrights work for NPR:
"Time in his poems seems to speed up and slow down alternately, to expand and contract, wavelike. The line dividing the personal from the public is as thin and permeable as the one that divides the present from the past, as in these lines from "Poem Almost Wholly in My Own Manner" from 1997's Black Zodiac:
In Moorhead, Mississippi,
         my mother sheltered her life out
In Leland, a few miles down US 82,
             unfretted and unaware,
Layered between history and a three-line lament
About to be brought forth
          on the wrong side of the tracks
All over the state and the Deep South.
We all know what happened next,
              blues and jazz and rhythm-and-blues
Then rock-and-roll, then sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll, lick by lick
Blowing the lanterns out—and everything else—along the levees ..."
See more at http://www.npr.org/2014/06/13/321586882/charles-wright-the-contemplative-poet-laureate

Late Selected Poems by Charles Wright
The New York Times reports how James Billington, the librarian of Congress, selected Wright:
"... as he read through the work of a dozen or so finalists, he kept coming back to Mr. Wright’s haunting poems, many of them gathered in a Dante-esque cycle of three trilogies known informally as “The Appalachian Book of the Dead.” His “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility — it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet,” Dr. Billington said." The poet started out by reading Faulkner, not poets: "In high school, he devoured all the books of William Faulkner —  his mother had once dated one of Faulkner’s brothers — and as a student at Davidson College in North Carolina, he tried to write fiction, only to discover that he was, as he later put it, the rare Southerner who couldn’t tell a story." Wright could, however, write a poem. See more at