June 13, 2014

Charles Wright pulls up his socks and becomes Poet Laureate


Via Shutterstock

Not Wright’s actual shoe. Via Shutterstock.

By now you’ve already heard from every major news sources that Charles Wright is the next Poet Laureate of the United States. “I’m going to try to pull up my socks here and see what happens,” he told Jeffrey Brown of PBS.

Charming and self-effacing — and a huge fan of crime fiction — Wright is a retired professor at the University of Virginia. He’s from Tennessee and “sort of snuck in” to the Iowa Writers Workshop after serving in the military.

His published poetry books include Black Zodiac, which won the Pulitzer Prize; Country Music: Selected Early Poems, which won the National Book Award; and his twenty-two others that won “just about every other honor in the poetry world,” according to the Times (including the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize).

“I’m very honored and flattered to be picked, but also somewhat confused,” he said to Jennifer Schuessler of The New York Times. “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”

In case you are not charmed instantaneously, Schuessler includes the important details that not only is the author’s voice “softly accented,” he takes the time to apologize for any background noise, especially the “buzz saws cutting trees in the yard that he has described in poem after poem.”

Everyone who has published Wright has reminded you of it in the last twenty-four hours: the Poetry Foundation linked to his earliest bylines in Poetry and even dug up old photos of him with John Ashbery and Joe Parisi; The New Yorker pointed you to a series of poems from its archive dating back to 1976; The Paris Review posted an interview with him, of course; the Virginia Quarterly Review shared dozens of his poems in its pages, and on and on.

Do you think he can hear the buzz saws over the roar of all this press?


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.