Off the Shelf: Charles Wright

Charles Wright, Souder Family Professor of English, "Littlefoot: A Poem." Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

"Littlefoot," the 18th book from one of America's most acclaimed poets, is an extended meditation on mortality, on the narrator's exploration of the world around him for a road map and for last instructions on "the other side of my own death."

“Has any other American poet been writing as beautifully and daringly over the past 25 years as Charles Wright? Possibly. But I cannot imagine who it would be," wrote poet Philip Levine in his citation to Wright for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. "Wright has a hunk of the ineffable in his teeth and he won’t let go. In poem after poem he plumbs our deepest relationships with nature, time, love, death, creation.”

Wright, who has taught poetry writing in the University of Virginia English department since 1983, received the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 for "Black Zodiac," the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1995 for "Chickamauga" and the National Book Award for Poetry in 1983 for "Country Music."

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From "Littlefoot"        

19

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border's railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
                                                    late May, gnat-floating evening.

Is love stronger than unlove?
                                         Only the unloved know.
And the mockingbird, whose heart is cloned and colorless.

And who's this tiny chirper,
                         lost in the loose leaves of the weeping cherry tree?
His song is not more than three feet off the ground, and singular,
And going nowhere.
Listen. It sounds a lot like you, hermano.
                                                           It sounds like me.