(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Apologia pro vita sua literally implies “the explanation of life,” a paradoxical use of the familiar phrase since in Wright’s cosmos, such an explanation must be incomplete and finally frustrating if certainty and closure are sought. The poem is divided into three sections: a philosophic excursion recapitulating ideas and insights from the past, a recollection of moments of intense being in Wright’s life as autobiographical fragments organized in terms of places of consequence, and a third section that attempts to penetrate as deeply as possible into a Self that is revealed through constant questioning, with an occasional assumption of insight that requires further qualification and testing. Tentatively, but not without some confidence, the poet is ready to present a few thoughts that he can rely on:

Affection’s the absoluteeverything rises to,Devotion’s detail, the sum of all our scatterings,Bright imprint our lives unshadow on.

However, even this lyric effusion is followed by the observation, “Easy enough to say now, the hush of late spring/ Hung like an after-echo,” to emphasize how the temporal splendor of the landscape—very prominent element of all of Wright’s work—can momentarily distract or disarm doubt. The “after-echo” testifies to the persistence of this feature while acting as a commentary on the perceptual aspects of the poet’s mind.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Andrews, Tom, ed. The Point Where All Things Meet: Essays on Charles Wright. Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College Press, 1995.

Bourgeois, Louis. “An Interview with Charles Wright.” The Carolina Quarterly 56 (Spring/Summer, 2004): 30-37.

Wright, Charles. Halflife: Improvisations and Interviews, 1977-1987. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988.

Wright, Charles. Quarter Notes: Improvisations and Interviews. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.