A new U.S. Poet Laureate was named today: Charles Wright. He doesn’t assume his duties until September 25th but the announcement has caused a little flurry of poetry news. It is always nice to have poetry news.
Wright, 79, is the 20th Poet Laureate. I have not read him before but the announcement from the Library of Congress describes Wright as “a master of the meditative, image-driven lyric” and goes on to say “his poems have reckoned with what he calls ‘language, landscape, and the idea of God.’ Wright’s body of work combines a Southern sensibility with an allusive expansiveness, for moments of singular musicality.” Wright is from Tennessee. Natasha Trethewey, the current Poet Laureate is from Mississippi. I would say there is a pattern developing with poets from the south, but the Laureate prior to Trethewey was Philip Levine who is from Detroit, Michigan.
But back to Wright. PBS has a wonderful interview with Wright. He agreed to take the post reluctantly because he doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. He was offered the position before and turned it down. But this time his wife and some friends convinced him to say yes. In the PBS interview he says he would much prefer it if his work was all anonymous and discovered in a monastery 500 years from now. He laughs, but I think really he is only half joking, bless him.
As for his poetry, I had to go sample some and gosh, I liked it. Here, for instance, from Words and the Diminution of All Things:
All afternoon the leaves have scuttled
Across the sidewalk and driveway, clicking their clattery claws.
And now the evening is over us,
Small slices of silence
running under a dark rain,
Wrapped in a larger.
Isn’t that great? I love the leaves and their clicking, clattering claws. That they scuttle makes me think of crabs and their claws. And the small slices of silence wrapped in a larger silence but he just says “wrapped in a larger” which makes you stop and pay attention, wrapped in a larger what? The Academy of American Poets has a few more of his poems online to listen to and read. I look forward to reading more of his work.