Charles Wright is a master of the meditative, image-driven lyric,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in an announcement Thursday. “For almost 50 years 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.
I’ve often recounted the story of how the only compliment Mr. Wright ever gave me as an undergraduate poetry student was a verbal thumbs up toward a new pair of cowboy boots I’d just purchased.
The truth is, I never had the honor of learning in his workshop, but only hounded him during office hours, hoping that our shared rural Southern heritage would precipitate some sort of mutual understanding. Instead he remarked that my first published poem was a pop song, and we spent a few hours discussing country music. No complaints. Because ever since, I’ve learned as much from this book as I have from any other, and feel confident that he’d now respect my improved tastes in music and cowboy boots.
Congratulations to Mr. Wright, for whom I’d still stand on Charles Simic‘s coffee table and declare as America’s greatest living poet.