Arts | Books

Book News: Charles Wright, Who Writes Of God And Nature, To Be Poet Laureate

NPR | June 12, 2014 4:38 a.m.

Contributed By:

Annalisa Quinn

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The Library of Congress says the next U.S. poet laureate will be Charles Wright, a 78-year-old retired University of Virginia professor who has said he believes “the true purpose of poetry to be a contemplation of the divine,” or, as he wrote in one of his poems, “Every true poem is a spark, / and aspires to the condition of the original fire.” Born in Tennessee and having lived most of his life in the South, Wright is the award-winning author of meditative poems about nature, God, the past, and often, his own backyard — “Landscape, as Wang Wei says, softens the sharp edges of isolation,” he wrote in one poem. “Landscape’s a lever of transcendence,” he wrote in another. “I’m very honored and flattered to be picked, but also somewhat confused,” Wright told The New York Times. “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.” Wright’s selection is to be officially announced later today. Librarian of Congress James Billington told the paper that he chose Wright because of a “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility — it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”
  • Leslie Jamison, essayist and uncontested queen of my heart for her collection The Empathy Exams, has signed with Little, Brown for two new books. According to Little, Brown, the upcoming books are Archive Lush, “an exploration of addiction that upends the traditional recovery memoir, blending cultural criticism, journalistic reporting and literary criticism with the author’s own narrative,” and Ghost Essays, “about haunting and obsession, love and loneliness.”
  • Mindy Kaling told the Los Angeles Times that she’s writing a collection of personal essays to be called Why Not Me? “So much has happened between the time I published my first book and now,” she said in an interview. “The show; my mother passed away; so many of my friends have gotten married. I’m a godmother now, and a homeowner. There’s so much that has happened in that period of time that I wanted to write another book.”
  • Rowan Ricardo Phillips has a new poem, “Kingdom Come,” in The Paris Review:

“Not knowing the difference between Heaven
And Paradise, he called them both Heaven.
So when he shrugged at the thought of a god
Blanched in the lights of implausible heights,
Thumbing the armrests of a throne, that was
Heaven. And when he stared out at the sea,
Feeling familiar to himself at last,
He called that Heaven, too.”

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