poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born on August 25, 1935, in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Charles Wright was educated at Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He began to read and write poetry while stationed in Italy during his four years of service in the U.S. Army, and published his first collection of poems, The Grave of the Right Hand (Wesleyan University Press), in 1970. His second and third collections, Hard Freight (1973) and Country Music: Selected Early Poems (1983), were both nominated for National Book Awards; the latter received the prize.

Since then, Wright has published numerous collections of poems, most recently Caribou (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011); Outtakes (Sarabande, 2010); Sestets: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009); Littlefoot: A Poem (2008); Scar Tissue (2007), which was the international winner for the Griffin Poetry Prize; The Wrong End of the Rainbow (Sarabande, 2005); Buffalo Yoga (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004); Negative Blue (2000); Appalachia (1998); Black Zodiac (1997), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Chickamauga (1995), which won the 1996 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990 (1990); and Zone Journals (1988).

Wright has also written two volumes of criticism: Halflife (1988) and Quarter Notes (1995) and has translated the work of Dino Campana in Orphic Songs (Oberlin College Press, 1984) as well as Eugenio Montale's The Storm and Other Poems (1978), which was awarded the PEN Translation Prize.

He taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as the Souder Family Professor of English. His many honors include the 2013 Bollingen Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and served until 2002. In 2014, he was appointed United States Poet Laureate. 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Caribou (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2014)
Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2012)
Sestets (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2009)
Littlefoot ((Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2007)
Scar Tissue (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2006)
Buffalo Yoga (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2004)
A Short History of the Shadow (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2002)
Negative Blue: Selected Later Poems (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2000)
Appalachia (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1998)
Black Zodiac (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1997)
Chickamauga (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1995)
The World of Ten Thousand Things: Poems, 1980-1990 (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1990)
Country Music: Selected Early Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1982)

Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]

Charles Wright, 1935
19

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border's railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
                                                    late May, gnat-floating evening.

Is love stronger than unlove?
                                         Only the unloved know.
And the mockingbird, whose heart is cloned and colorless.

And who's this tiny chirper,
                         lost in the loose leaves of the weeping cherry tree?
His song is not more than three feet off the ground, and singular,
And going nowhere.
Listen. It sounds a lot like you, hermane.
                                                           It sounds like me.

Reprinted from Littlefoot © 2007 by Charles Wright, by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about FSG poets at fsgpoetry.com.

Reprinted from Littlefoot © 2007 by Charles Wright, by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about FSG poets at fsgpoetry.com.

Charles Wright

Charles Wright

Born in 1935, Charles Wright is the author of several books of poetry and has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Pulitzer Prize

by this poet

poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

poem

Bowls will receive us,
                                        and sprinkle black scratch in our eyes.
Later, at the great fork on the untouchable road,
It won't matter where we have become.

Unburdened by prayer, unburdened by any supplication,
Someone will take our hand,
poem

(for Coleman Hawkins)

The structure of landscape is infinitesimal,
Like the structure of music,
                            seamless, invisible.
Even the rain has larger sutures.
What holds the landscape together, and what holds music together,
Is faith, it appears--faith of the eye, faith