Franz Wright

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Franz Wright (March 18, 1953 – May 14, 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] [2]

James Wright (poet) American poet, born 1927

James Arlington Wright was an American poet.

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.


Life and career

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

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Oberlin College private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, United States

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. Founded as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in 1833 by John Jay Shipherd and Philo Stewart, it is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the United States and the second oldest continuously operating coeducational institute of higher learning in the world. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. In 1835 Oberlin became one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African Americans, and in 1837 the first to admit women.

Wheeling Motel (Knopf, 2009), had selections put to music for the record Readings from Wheeling Motel. [3] Wright wrote the lyrics to and performs the Clem Snide song "Encounter at 3AM" on the album Hungry Bird (2009). Wright's most recent books include Kindertotenwald (Knopf, 2011), a collection of sixty-five prose poems concluding with a love poem to his wife, written while Wright had terminal lung cancer. The poem won Poetry magazine's premier annual literary prize for best work published in the magazine during 2011. The prose poem collection was followed in 2012 by Buson: Haiku, a collection of translations of 30 haiku by the Japanese poet Yosa Buson, published in a limited edition of a few hundred copies by Tavern Books.

Clem Snide alt-country band

Clem Snide is an alt-country band featuring Eef Barzelay, Brendan Fitzpatrick (bass) and Ben Martin (drums).

Yosa Buson poet and painter from Japan

Yosa Buson or Yosa no Buson was a Japanese poet and painter of the Edo period. Along with Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of the Edo Period.

In 2013 Wright's primary publisher, Knopf in New York, brought out another full length collection of verse and prose poems, F, which was begun in the ICU of a Boston hospital after excision of part of a lung. F was the most positively received to any of Wright's work. Writing in the Huffington Post, Anis Shivani placed it among the best books of poetry yet produced by an American, and called Wright "our greatest contemporary poet."

In 2013 Wright recorded 15 prose poems from Kindertotenwald for inclusion in a series of improvisational concerts performed in European venues, arranged by David Sylvian, Stephan Mathieu and Christian Fennesz. [4]

David Sylvian English singer

David Sylvian is an English singer-songwriter and musician who came to prominence in the late 1970s as frontman of the band Japan. The band's androgynous look and increasingly electronic sound made them an important influence on the UK's early-1980s New Romantic scene. Following their breakup, Sylvian embarked on a solo career with his debut album Brilliant Trees (1984). His solo work has been described by AllMusic as "far-ranging and esoteric," and has included collaborations with artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Robert Fripp, Holger Czukay, and Fennesz.

Stephan Mathieu is a German musician and sound artist whose work is based on digital and analog processing techniques. He currently lives and works in Bonn, Germany.

Prior to his death, Wright completed his final manuscript, entitled "Axe in Blossom," which is forthcoming from Knopf.

Wright has been anthologised in works such as The Best of the Best American Poetry as well as Czeslaw Milosz's anthology A Book of Luminous Things [5] Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of Image, [6] and American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets. [7]


Wright died of terminal lung cancer at his home in Waltham, Massachusetts on May 14, 2015. [8]

Waltham, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Waltham is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, and was an early center for the labor movement as well as a major contributor to the American Industrial Revolution. The original home of the Boston Manufacturing Company, the city was a prototype for 19th century industrial city planning, spawning what became known as the Waltham-Lowell system of labor and production. The city is now a center for research and higher education, home to Brandeis University and Bentley University. The population was 60,636 at the census in 2010.


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 poems'] best forms of originality [are] 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." [9] Novelist Denis Johnson has said Wright's poems "are like tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers--miraculous gifts."[ citation needed ] The Boston Review has called Wright's poetry "among the most honest, haunting, and human being written today." [10] 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." [11] 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." [12] 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." [13]

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." [14]

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." [15] "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." [16]

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 from 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, then he is really not all that great... 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 brain's agility in its struggle with the heart." [17]

Cultural critic for the Chicago Tribune 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." [18] "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." [18]


Selected works


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  1. "Franz Wright".
  2. Los Angeles Times (15 May 2015). "Franz Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, dies at 62".
  3. "iTunes - Music - Readings from Wheeling Motel by Franz Wright". iTunes.
  4. Sylvian, David. "Franz Wright". The Kilowatt Hour. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  5. "The Best American Poetry 2008".
  6. "Language as Sacrament in the New Testament" Editor Gregory Wolfe, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009, ISBN   978-0-8028-6464-2
  7. David Walker, ed. (2006). American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets. Oberlin College Press. ISBN   978-0-932440-28-0.
  8. McMurtrie, John (May 15, 2015). "Franz Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, dead at age 62". SFGate . Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  9. Vendler, Helen (October 11, 2007). "From the Homicidal to the Ecstatic". New York Review of Books. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  10. Boston Review
  11. "Penguin Random House".
  12. "WALKING TO MARTHA'S VINEYARD" Publishers Weekly September 1, 2003
  13. Burt, Stephen (December 21, 2003). "Long Nights, Short Years". The New York Times.
  14. Constant Critic review
  15. "Stouthearted men by William Logan - The New Criterion".
  16. "From "stinko" to Devo by William Logan - The New Criterion".
  17. "Washington Independent Review of Books".
  18. 1 2 Chicago Tribune (21 September 2011). "The Sin-Eater: A Breviary by Thomas Lynch and Kindertotenwald by Franz Wright - Chicago Tribune".
  19. "Franz Wright".