NYS Writers Institute, April 20, 2006
The son of prominent American poet James Wright, Franz Wright began composing poems in his early teens. His father responded to his first poems with a letter that began, "I'll be damned. You're a poet. Welcome to hell."
In striking contrast with the grim nature of his earlier work, however, Wright's two recent volumes, Walking to Martha's Vineyard (2003), and God's Silence (2006), reflect a newly embraced Christian spirituality that has helped Wright master his personal demons. In an interview with David Mehegan of the Boston Globe, Wright described how, on a September afternoon in 1999, he experienced an epiphany:
"'I was sitting in my office, and all of a sudden I had an experience of literal certitude that has never left me, and it's the most important thing in my life. I didn't feel alone anymore, and it's the first time I felt that way.' Soon afterward, he went to St. Joseph's Church in Waltham, 'followed the priest after Mass, and said, 'How do I join?' He looked a little scared, because I looked a little scary. But he put me through formal initiation, and I was baptized.' That December he started a daily alcoholism-recovery program."
God's Silence (2006), more than any of Wright's works to date, represents an affirmation and celebration of his newfound faith, the acceptance of which he voices in the paradoxical line, "I have heard God's silence like the sun." The Publishers Weekly reviewer said that the collection's extended pieces "arrive at brutal truths," while other "miniature lyrics… seem to project upward in spiritual longing."
Walking to Martha's Vineyard (2003), winner of the Pulitzer Prize, explores the subjects of love, depression, loneliness, Christianity, and nature, as well as the poet's ambivalent relationship with his late father, poet James Wright.
"Like the work of his American forefathers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Wallace Stevens, Wright's poems sound like a man talking to himself, wrestling with the big issues: faith, love, death and the beyond. We lean in close, inhale their potent fragrance of intimacy and are hooked." - John Freeman, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Franz Wright's poetry is among the most honest, haunting, and human being written today." - Boston Review
Previous collections include The Beforelife (2001), winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems (1998), The Night World and the Word Night (1992), and Entry in an Unknown Hand (1989). Wright has also published four books in translation of poetry by Rainer Marie Rilke, Erica Pedretti, and Rene Char.
Franz Wright gave a joint reading at the Writers Institute with Adam Zagajewski on February 27, 2003.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.