STEUBENVILLE, OH—Franz Wright’s soft words floated across the room, inviting listeners to seek God’s presence, as Wright has sought it through poetry.
“The great paradox of poetry is the attempt, in a way, to capture a moment of illumination that is basically speechless and wordless,” Wright said. “It is a strange, hopeless undertaking.”
Wright read selections of his poetry to a full crowd at Franciscan University of Steubenville on September 13. In his introduction for Wright, Dr. David Craig, Franciscan University English professor, stressed how poetry allows people to fully realize their humanity.
The author of 12 books of poetry and several translated novels, Wright won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2004 book, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard. Wright’s father, Martin’s Ferry native James Wright, won a Pulitzer as well, making the two the only father and son pair to ever have won the prize.
Wright’s poetry treated subjects including nature and solitude, and the inner reflections fostered in these places. He writes with a raw, austere style that nevertheless inspires hope.
“I see us both bound for the fire, lone peach tree,” Wright read from his poem titled “Peach Tree,” which he dedicated to his editor. “Then nothing, then pure spirit again. Even Lazarus has to die. What have I done? What have I been so afraid of all my life?”
Wright said that he was very fond of this poem, and especially liked the line about Lazarus. He pondered that Lazarus must die again, though he was raised from the dead.
Wright read many other poems, including, “Wheeling Motel,” “The Yes,” and “Rose Opening.” The audience snapped their fingers in praise of his poetry, the traditional form of applause at a poetry reading.
Wright’s presentation was part of Franciscan University’s Distinguished Speakers Series, and was sponsored by the English Department and the Department of Academic Affairs.