May 18, 2022

Charles Wright Named 20th Poet Laureate of the United States (News, Resources, and Multimedia)

From LC:

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced the appointment of Charles Wright as the Library’s 20th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2014-2015.Images via LOC

Wright will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season with a reading of his work at the Coolidge Auditorium on Thursday, September 25.

“Charles Wright is a master of the meditative, image-driven lyric,” said Billington. “For almost 50 years his poems have reckoned with what he calls ‘language, landscape, and the idea of God.’ Wright’s body of work combines a Southern sensibility with an allusive expansiveness, for moments of singular musicality.”

Wright succeeds Natasha Trethewey as Poet Laureate. She said, “I am delighted by the appointment of Charles Wright, a poet whose work I have long admired. His deep and abiding knowledge of poetry—his belief in its power to sustain us—makes him precisely the kind of advocate we need in the post.”

Wright joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

The new Poet Laureate is the author of 24 collections of poems. His most recent book is “Caribou” (2014), which Publishers Weekly calls “a dexterous balance of lightness in dark … rife with nihilism, humor, and beauty.” Wright’s major honors include the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for “Black Zodiac”; the National Book Award for “Country Music: Selected Early Poems”; the Bollingen Prize for “Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems”; and the International Griffin Poetry Prize for “Scar Tissue.” In 2008 he received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry, from the Library of Congress.

Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Wright discovered the poetry of Ezra Pound and in response began writing poems while stationed in Italy during his four years of service in the U.S. Army. He received degrees from Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and published his first collection of poems, “The Grave of the Right Hand,” in 1970.

Wright has also published two books of essays, “Quarter Notes” (1995) and “Halflife” (1988) as part of the University of Michigan Press “Poets on Poetry” series, and has translated three poetry collections: Dino Campana’s “Orphic Songs” (1984) and Eugenio Montale’s “Motets” (1981) and “The Storm and Other Poems” (1978), the latter of which received the PEN Translation Prize.

Wright taught for many years at the University of Virginia, where he was the Souder Family Professor of English. He also taught at the University of California-Irvine and Universita Degli Studi in Florence, Italy.

His awards also include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Wright was elected as a member to the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 1991 and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995, and in 2002 he was elected as a fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999-2003.

Reference Resources

Charles Wright Digital Resources (via LC)

Charles Wright Bio and Poetry (via Poetry Foundation)

Charles Wright Bio and Selected Bibliography (via

‘U.Va. Profiles:’ Charles Wright’s Interior Landscape (via UVa Today)


Charles Wright | 2012-2013 Lannan Center Readings and Talks from Lannan Center on Vimeo.

Audio: Charles Wright Poetry Reading (1978, via U. of Arizona Poetry Center)

Audio: Charles Wright Poetry Reading (1984, via U. of Arizona Poetry Center)

Background About Poet Laureate

The Poet Laureate is selected for a one-year term by the Librarian of Congress. The choice is based on poetic merit alone and has included a wide variety of poetic styles.

The Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series and plans other special events during the literary season.

Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry and their terms of service are listed below.

Joseph Auslander, 1937-1941
Allen Tate, 1943-1944
Robert Penn Warren, 1944-1945
Louise Bogan, 1945-1946
Karl Shapiro, 1946-1947
Robert Lowell, 1947-1948
Leonie Adams, 1948-1949
Elizabeth Bishop, 1949-1950
Conrad Aiken, 1950-1952, the first two terms to Serve
William Carlos Williams, appointed in 1952 but did NOT Serve
Randall Jarrell, 1956-1958
Robert Frost, 1958-1959
Richard Eberhart, 1959-1961
Louis Untermeyer, 1961-1963
Howard Nemerov, 1963-1964
Reed WHITTEMORE, 1964-1965
Stephen Spender, 1965-1966
James Dickey, 1966-1968
William Jay Smith, 1968-1970
William Stafford, 1970-1971
Josephine Jacobsen, 1971-1973
Daniel Hoffman, 1973-1974
Stanley Kunitz, 1974 -1976
Robert Hayden, 1976-1978
William Meredith, 1978-1980
Maxine Kumin, 1981-1982
Anthony Hecht, 1982-1984
Robert Fitzgerald, 1984-1985
Reed WHITTEMORE, 1984-1985, Interim Consultant in Poetry
Gwendolyn Brooks, 1985-1986
Robert Penn Warren, 1986-1987, first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to eBay
Richard Wilbur, 1987-1988
Howard Nemerov, 1988-1990
Mark Strand, 1990-1991
Joseph Brodsky, 1991-1992
Mona Van Duyn, 1992-1993
Rita Dove, 1993 -1995
Robert Hass, 1995-1997
Robert Pinsky, 1997-2000
Stanley Kunitz, 2000-2001
Billy Collins, 2001-2003
Louise Gluck, 2003-2004
Ted Kooser, 2004-2006
Donald Hall 2006-2007
Charles Simic, 2007-2008
Kay Ryan, 2008-2010
WS MERWIN 2010-2011
Philip Levine 2011-2012
2012-2014 Natasha Trethewey

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.