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:
- A preview of the reading, by Book World editor Ron Charles, in his blog for The Washington Post.
- An “All Things Considered” interview with Melissa Block, at the National Public Radio studios in Washington, DC.
- A videotaped interview on the USA Today website
- A print interview in his hometown paper, The Daily Progress
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.
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.