Last Friday, the Culbreth Theater hosted Charles Wright, the 2014-15 U.S. Poet Laureate, and National Book Award winner Mary Szybist. The night featured his “Shrines to Longing,” a poetry reading and Q&A. The event was held in conjunction with the Virginia Festival of the Book, a “celebration of books, reading, literacy, and literary culture” according to the website.
Wright and Szybist were introduced by Kevin McFadden — poet and chief operating officer of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities — as poets who emerged from the “Silent Generation,” or the period between the Great Depression and the start of the Baby Boomers. The two poets read some of their shorter works and spoke about their relationship with silence. In the poem “The Silent Generation,” Wright asks, “What was it we never had to say?”
Wright spoke first, announcing, “I always like to start on the wrong foot,” after he mispronounced a line. This set the tone for the rest of his reading, as he constantly interrupted poems with his own interjections of “whatever that means” or “actually I think that’s true.”
Second-year College student Hannah Beaman said, “His poetry really made me smile, as did his personality. I was surprised by how candid and unaffected he was on stage. [He seemed] approachable … I would be his friend.”