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Charles Wright

Charles Wright’s many awards include the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. His recent books include Caribou (FSG, 2014), Littlefoot (FSG, 2007), and Scar Tissue (FSG, 2006), and he was the guest editor of the 2008 edition of The Best American Poetry. He is the emeritus Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia. In 1993, he received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement. In 2014, he was named Poet Laureate.


Sundown Blues

Spring 2008 | Poetry

There are some things that can’t be conveyed—
description, for instance,
The sundown light on that dog hair lodge pole pine
and the dead branches of spruce trees.


The Book

Spring 2008 | Poetry

Whose name will be inscribed in the book
                                                                 just before mine?


Summer 2007 | Poetry

Why does each evening up here
always, in summer, seem to be
The way—as it does, with the light knifing low from right to left—
It will be on the next-to-last one?


“I Shall Be Released”

Summer 2007 | Poetry

There is a consolation beyond nomenclature
of what is past
Or is about to pass, though I don’t know what it is.
But someone, somewhere, must, and this is addressed to him.

Little Prayer

Summer 2007 | Poetry

Lord of the ugly chair and broken sofa,
Of mouse piss and pack rat shit,
Lord of the badger bite and the pine squirrel nest,
cleanse me and make me whole.



Summer 2007 | Poetry

The Great Scribe, who remembers nothing,
not even your name the instant he writes it down,
Would like it up here, I think,
The blank page of the sundown sky, the tamarack quill points,
and no one to answer for.


No Angel

Summer 2007 | Poetry

In the Kingdom of the Hollow-at-Heart, the insect is king.
In the Kingdom of the Beyond,
all lie where the ground is smooth.
Everything’s what it seems to be, and a little less.


Kingsport Harmony

Summer 2007 | Poetry

That landscape—unpeopled, unburiable, sun-stunned—
Lifts me re-orphaned out of language
Into the nomenclature of stones,
unangeled, unsought-for.


from Littlefoot

Winter 2006 | Poetry

35. The level’s so low in the short pond,The snipe seems to walk on water,ruffling his dagger-drawn wingsAs he heads for the next mossed hillock.Suddenly, under a cloud, the sun’s bottom auras the pond’s surface,And snipe is consumed by fire [...]

Old Papa Cosmos

Spring 2005 | Essays

Walt Whitman has always been problematic for me. Too vatic, too nationalistic, too in-your-face. For years I didn't pay much attention to him, being smitten with Miss Dickinson, who told it slant, and others who told it otherwise but in a lower register. It wasn't until I began to loosen and lengthen my own lines (as well as my so-called aesthetic) around 1975, when I was forty years old, that I picked up “Song of Myself” and read it seriously for the first time.

The Minor Art of Self-Defense

Spring 2004 | Poetry

Landscape was never a subject matter, it was a technique, 
A method of measure, 
                                a scaffold for structuring. 
I stole its silences, I stepped to its hue and cry. 


A Field Guide to the Birds of the Upper Yaak

Spring 2004 | Poetry

A misty rain, no wind from the west, 
Clouds close as smoke to the ground, 
                                                      spring's fire, like a first love, now gone to ash, 
The lives of angels beginning to end like porch lights turned off 
From time zone to time zone, 
                                          our pictures still crooked on the walls, 
Our prayer, like a Chinese emperor, always two lips away, 
Our pockets gone dry and soft with lint. 
Montana morning, a cold front ready to lay its ears back. 


Wrong Notes

Spring 2004 | Poetry

To bring the night sky to life,
                                          strike a wrong note from time to time.

Ars Poetica II

Winter 1997 | Poetry

I find, after all these years, I am a believer—
I believe what the thunder and lightning have to say;
I believe that dreams are real,
        and that death has two reprisals;
I believe that dead leaves and black water fill my heart.


Cicada Blue

Winter 1997 | Poetry

I wonder what Spanish poets would say about this,
Bloodless, mid-August meridian,
Afternoon like a sucked-out, transparent insect shell,
Diffused, and tough to the touch.
Something about a labial, probably,
        something about the blue.