Congratulations to Charles Wright, who was announced today as America’s next poet laureate. James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that Wright’s poems have “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness” and commended his “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility—it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”
Wright has received, as the Times notes, “just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.”
There seem to me to be certain absolutes in whatever field of endeavor one is in. In business and banking they may be availability and convertibility, security and safekeeping, minimal loss and steady, incremental accession. I don’t think it’s that way in poetry, though such values will get you to temporary high places. Brilliance is what you reach for, language that has a life of its own, seriousness of subject matter beyond the momentary gasp and glitter, a willingness to take on what’s difficult and beautiful, a willingness to be different and abstract, a willingness to put on the hair shirt and go into the desert and sit still, and listen hard, and write it down, and tell no one.
We’re happy to have published six of Wright’s poems in our Summer 2008 issue. Here’s one of them, “In Memory of the Natural World”:
Four ducks on the pond tonight, the fifth one MIA.
A fly, a smaller than normal fly,
Is mapping his way through sun-strikes across my window.
Behind him, as though at attention,
the pine trees hold their breaths.
The fly’s real, the trees are real,
And the ducks.
But the glass is artificial, and it’s on fire.
We wish Wright all the best in his new role.