Franz Wright new crop 252 231 s

Franz Wright 1953-2015). Photo by Garin Horner. Courtesy One Pause Poetry.

Franz Wright (March 18, 1953 - May 15, 2015) was an American poet. He and his father James Wright are the only parent/child pair to have won the Pulitzer Prize in the same category.[1]


Wright was born in Vienna, Austria. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1977.

Wheeling Motel (Knopf, 2009), had selections put to music for the record "Readings from Wheeling Motel". [2] Wright stepped down as the Jacob Ziskind Visiting Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University in May 2009. Wright wrote the lyrics to and performs on the Clem Snide song "Encounter at 3AM" on the album Hungry Bird (released in February 2009). His most recent book, is Kindertotenwald (Knopf 2011), a collection of sixty-five prose poems concluding with a longish lyrical poem to his wife.

Wright has been anthologised in works such as The Best American Poetry 2008 as well as the late Czeslaw Milosz's anthology of favorite poems.[3], Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of Image, [4] and American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets [5]

In 1999 he married the translator Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.

Wright died of cancer at his home in Waltham, Massachusetts.[6]


Writing in the New York Review of Books Helen Vendler said "Wright's scale of experience, like Berryman's, runs from the homicidal to the ecstatic ... His best forms of or originality: deftness in patterning, startling metaphors, starkness of speech, compression of both pain and joy, and a stoic self-possession with the agonies and penalties of existence." [7] Novelist Denis Johnson has said Wright's poems "are like tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers--miraculous gifts."Template:Cn The Boston Review has called Wright's poetry "among the most honest, haunting, and human being written today. [8] Critic Ernest Hilbert wrote for Random House's magazine Bold Type that "Wright oscillates between direct and evasive dictions, between the barroom floor and the arts club podium, from aphoristic aside to icily poetic abstraction."[9] Walking to Martha's Vineyard (2003) in particular, was well-received. According to Publishers Weekly, the collection features "[h]eartfelt but often cryptic will find Wright's self-diagnostics moving throughout." [10] The New York Times noted that Wright promises, and can deliver, great depths of feeling, while observing that Wright depends very much on our sense of his tone, and on our belief not just that he means what he says but that he has said something new...[on this score] Walking to Martha's Vineyard sometimes succeeds."[11]

Poet Jordan Davis, writing for The Constant Critic, suggested that Wright's collection was so accomplished it would have to be kept "out of the reach of impulse kleptomaniacs." Added Davis, "deader than deadpan, any particular Wright poem may not seem like much, until, that is, you read a few of them. Once the context kicks in, you may find yourself trying to track down every word he’s written" [12].

Some critics were less welcoming. According to New Criterion critic William Logan, with whom Wright would later publicly feud, "[t]his poet is surprisingly vague about the specifics of his torment (most of his poems are shouts and curses in the dark). He was cruelly affected by the divorce of his parents, though perhaps after forty years there should be a statute of limitation... 'The Only Animal,' the most accomplished poem in the book, collapses into the same kitschy sanctimoniousness that puts nodding Jesus dolls on car dashboards." [13] "Wright offers the crude, unprocessed sewage of suffering", he comments. "He has drunk harder and drugged harder than any dozen poets in our health-conscious age, and paid the penalty in hospitals and mental wards." [14]

The critical reception of Wright's 2011 collection, Kindertotenwald (Knopf), has been positive on the whole. Writing in the Washington Independent Book Review, Grace Cavalieri speaks of the book as a departure Wright's best known poems. "The prose poems are intriguing thought patterns that show poetry as mental process... This is original material, and if a great poet cannot continue to be original... In this text there is a joyfulness that energizes and makes us feel the writing as a purposeful surge. It is a life force. This is a good indicator of literary art... Memory and the past,mortality, longing, childhood, time, space, geography and loneliness, are all the poet's playthings. In these conversations with himself, Franz Wright shows how the mind works with his feelings and his brains agility in its struggle with the heart."[15]

Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller says that Kindertotenwald is "ultimately about joy and grace and the possibility of redemption, about coming out whole on the other side of emotional catastrophe."[16] "This collection, like all of Wright's book, combines familiar, colloquial phrases--the daily lingo you hear everywhere--with the sudden sharpness of a phrase you've never heard anywhere, but that sounds just as familiar, just as inevitable. These pieces are written in closely packed prose, like miniature short stories, but they have a fierce lilting beauty that marks them as poetry. Reading 'Kindertotenwald' is like walking through a plate-glass window on purpose. There is--predictably--pain, but once you've made it a few steps past the threshold, you realize it wasn't glass after all, only air, and that the shattering sound you heard was your own heart breaking. Healing, though, is possible. 'Soon, soon,' the poet writes in 'Nude With Handgun and Rosary,' 'between one instant and the next, you will be well."[16]





Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[18]

Audio /videoEdit

Franz Wright reads "Woman Falling"

Franz Wright reads "Woman Falling"

  • Walking to Martha's Vineyard: Poems. Princeton, NJ: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 2004.
  • Franz Wright poetry reading, Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard College Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Library, 2005.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[18]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Poetry Foundation profile
  2. Readings from Wheeling Motel
  3. "Passing Scenes (While Reading Basho)" Editors Charles Wright, David Lehman, Simon and Schuster, 2008, ISBN 9780743299749
  4. "Language as Sacrament in the New Testament" Editor Gregory Wolfe, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009, ISBN 9780802864642
  5. David Walker, ed (2006). American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets. Oberlin College Press. ISBN 9780932440280. 
  6. McMurtrie, John (May 15, 2015). "Franz Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, dead at age 62". SFGate. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  7. "From the Homicidal to the Ecstatic" New York Review of Books October 11, 2007 by Helen Vendler ]
  8. Boston Review
  9. Bold Type: Essay on Franz Wright
  10. "WALKING TO MARTHA'S VINEYARD" Publishers Weekly September 1, 2003
  11. Burt, Stephen (December 21, 2003). "Long Nights, Short Years". The New York Times. 
  12. Constant Critic review
  13. New Criterion June 2004 "Stouthearted men" by William Logan
  14. New Criterion December 2009 "From 'stinko' to Devo" by William Logan
  15. Washington Independent Book Review "Kindertotenwald: Prose Poems" review
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Poems of sin-eaters, souls and suffering" by Julia Keller September 21, 2011
  17. profile
  18. 18.0 18.1 Search results = au:Franz Wright, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 20, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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