Charles Wright

by Mr. Ankeny

Looking West from Laguna Beach at Night from Chickamauga (1995)
I've always liked the view from my mother-in-law's house at night, Oil rigs off Long Beach Like floating lanterns out in the smog-dark Pacific, Stars in the eucalyptus, Lights of airplanes arriving from Asia, and town lights Littered like broken glass around the bay and back up the hill. In summer, dance music is borne up On the sea winds from the hotel's beach deck far below, "Twist and Shout," or "Begin the Beguine." It's nice to think that somewhere someone is having a good time, And pleasant to picture them down there Turned out, tipsy and flushed, in their white shorts and their turquoise shirts. Later, I like to sit and look up At the mythic history of Western civilization, Pinpricked and clued through the zodiac. I'd like to be able to name them, say what's what and how who got where, Curry the physics of metamorphosis and its endgame, But I've spent my life knowing nothing.

Thought on “Looking...”

He starts as a visitor, looking from “[his] mother-in-law's house at night.” But we quickly see he knows the area well. He uses a beautiful simile to describe the lights, “Littered like broken glass around the bay and back up the hill.” He is clearly feeling like an outsider, although he’s casual about thinking “that somewhere someone is having a good time.” We wonder whether he’s having a good time.

Analysis (continued)

After thinking of party-people, he thinks of the “Pinpricked” Zodiac, which comes from the stars. Then he says he wants to “curry” or improve high physics, but he has spent his life knowing nothing. We don’t believe he knows nothing, but we sympathize that he feels small under the universe’s sky, and the vast amount of knowledge we know and don’t know from the stars.

C.W.’s Life...

Charles Wright
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Born in 1935 in Tennessee He served four years in the U.S. Army, and it was while stationed in Italy that he began to read and write poetry. Served at UCI from 1966-1983. Also has taught at U of Iowa, Princeton, Columbia, and many other prestigious colleges.

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Life (cont’d)

He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Jay Parini once said he is “among the best poets” of his generation. Charles Wright is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and the Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

“One wants one’s work to be paid attention to, but I hate personal attention. I just want everyone to read the poems. I want my poetry to get all the attention in the world, but I want to be the anonymous author.”


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