Charles Wright Named 20th U.S. Poet Laureate

Jun 12, 2014

The Library of Congress has chosen Southern writer Charles Wright to serve as the nation’s next poet laureate beginning this fall.

Wright hails from Pickwick Dam, Tennessee. For years, he was a professor at the University of Virginia.

He began writing poetry while he was stationed in Italy with the U.S. Army, inspired by the work of Ezra Pound.

In announcing the selection, Librarian of Congress James Billington says Wright is a master of the “meditative, image-driven lyric.”

The 79-year-old Wright succeeds another Southern poet, Natasha Trethewey, as poet laureate. Trethewey toured the country for a regular PBS feature called “Where Poetry Lives.”

Wright has written 24 collections of poetry. His work has won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award and the Bollingen Prize.

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

And before we go to break, a few words from the man who will be the next poet laureate of the United States - Charles Wright. He is 78 and a retired professor at the University of Virginia. Here he is reading one of his poems "Clear Night."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLES WRIGHT: (Reading) Clear night, some top of a moon, a backlit sky. Moon fingers lay down their same routine on the side deck and the threshold. The white keys and the black keys. Bird hush and bird song. Acacia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God. I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out. I want to be stretched like music wrung from a drop seed. I want to be entered and picked clean.

And the wind says, what to me. And the castor beans with her earrings of death say, what to me. And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark and the gears notch engines wheel.

HOBSON: Charles Wright reading "Clear Night." He will start his appointment as poet laureate of the United States in September. You are listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.