Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Saying What You Want to Say in Your Own Way

Charles Wright talks about literary style, Southern writing, and how to get into graduate school without really trying

April 26, 2013 Acclaimed poet Charles Wright, who hails from Kingsport, Tennessee, recently talked with Georgetown’s Vox Populi about his past work as a young writer. He explained how he started out as a history major at Davidson and how he also flew under the radar when aiming for one of the country’s top graduate writing programs:

“Basically I was never officially admitted. I had a B average from Davidson when I applied, and I was accepted to the graduate school at the University of Iowa. I just assumed it was the Iowa Writer’s Workshop,” he admitted to Vox Populi’s Colin Segura. “I didn’t know anything about writing, having been a history major. But I kept my mouth shut.”

Often described as one of America’s greatest contemporary poets, Wright is also as an important Southern voice. When asked about being that classification, he explained that he doesn’t want to limit himself to a regional category. “But, I didn’t resist being called a Southern writer,” he said. “I was brought up in Tennessee, and that’s played a big part in my writing.”

Wright has a recognizable literary style that relies on odd syllable patterns and dropped lines, as well as a unique meter. Developing this “trademark,” however, took twenty-five years. For hopeful poets, he offers a few words of advice about crafting a personal style: “You don’t have to have your own system. But you have to have your own voice, you have to be able to say what you want to say in your own way.”

To read Chapter 16’s review of Wright’s most recent book, Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems, click here.