A Terrific Beginning

Charles Wright at his opening reading as Poet Laureate.

Charles Wright at his opening reading as U.S. Poet Laureate.

On Thursday, September 25th, Charles Wright officially began his term as the 20th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress with a reading in the historic Coolidge Auditorium. There was a host of media coverage before and after the reading, including the following:

Wright even got into an article on the upcoming centennial of John Berryman’s birth, along with 18th Poet Laureate Philip Levine (whose essay “Mine Own John Berryman” introduced me to the world of graduate writing programs, many years ago). But back to our new Laureate’s opening reading–it was a marvel. In 45 minutes he treated the nearly capacity audience to poems from throughout his career. And his voice!–wow. I’ve had a good chance to hear it, in person and in sound studios and even on my answering machine, but it was all the more resonant on that stage.

Charles Wright with the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, in the Ceremonial Office of the Library of Congress.

Charles with the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, in the Librarian’s Ceremonial Office.

I couldn’t agree more with the Librarian’s introduction, in which he concluded, “Wright’s poetry is a poetry for all ages, and all times. For close to half a century, it has not only reported on what it’s seen, but searched for whatever truth could be found there. The result is a music as singular, moving, and ultimately necessary as anything in our language.” The audience felt the same way, clearly, and honored Charles with a standing ovation. He had to come back out through the Coolidge’s “Doors of God”–i.e., the center doors that open up mysteriously onto the stage–to receive it. Which of course he handled with his great humility and humor; he also took almost two hours to sign books afterwards! Here’s to more of the same, from our new Poet Laureate and from those lucky enough to see/hear/meet him throughout the next nine months.

The Poet Laureate receiving a standing ovation, with the "Doors of God" open in the background.

The Poet Laureate receiving a standing ovation, with the “Doors of God” open in the background.

Signing books after the opening reading.

Signing books after the opening reading.


  1. Harris Lenowitz
    October 6, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    “Doors of God”??!!! we (-jews-) don’t call them that, but “doors of the skies~heavens” (if you must). in the future, you might think twice, before reducing the awe that stands us well in determining the will and the aspects and realms (?) of deity.

  2. Riobert Denham
    January 3, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    The transcript for Chuck Wright’s reading is fairly useless in its present form. I have cleaned it up, gotten rid of quite a few howlers, formatted the poems as they appear in Chuck’s books, and generally have put it in a readable format. I’ve also noted after the title of each poem the book and page number of the poem’s original appearance, as well as the book title in which it was reprinted. I’ll be happy to send along an electronic copy if you tell me who to send it to (Rob Casper?). You’d of course be free to do what you want with it.

    All best,
    Robert D. Denham

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