Charles Wright 1935–
American poet and translator.
Wright is widely regarded as one of America's most important living poets. Although Wright's poetry has been strongly influenced by his Southern upbringing and contains many personal details about his home in Tennessee, it conveys a sense of universal connections to the past, rather than employing a confessional stance. Wright's poetry is marked by strong internal rhythms which contribute to an overall musicality of language. A typical Wright poem is filled with objects which give it the illusion of immediacy and concreteness. Wright's poems transcend traditional religious definitions of spirituality and move toward embracing mysticism of natural forces. The combination of a sustained, detached vision and abundant images and objects gives his poetry a painterly quality. His use of personal scenes and anecdote contribute to a sense of self-portraiture, but without subjectivity or intimacy. Helen Vendler has used the term "the transcendent I" to refer to Wright's impersonal perspective.
Wright's career has steadily gained momentum since the publication of his first major collection, The Grave of the Right Hand, in 1970. China Trace (1977), Wright's fourth major volume, clearly shows his individuality and poetic range. In this work, Wright models some poems after Chinese poetry and incorporates a catalogue-like rush of photographic imagery. Many critics consider The Southern Cross (1981) to be Wright's best volume of poetry. Its subject matter is closely connected to his home and past, and the celebration of the physical world emerges as its major theme. Wright combines first-hand experience and personal subjects to convey a sense of spiritual yearning for what has been lost in the past.
In 1983, Wright received an American Book Award for Country Music (1982). Richard Tillinghast described the poetry in this book as "austere and somewhat difficult of access," but possessing the same musically rhythmic language and imagery which makes reading Wright's poetry such a rewarding experience.
(See also CLC, Vols. 6, 13; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1982.)