Poetry Sunday: Looking West from Laguna Beach at Night

The Librarian of Congress has announced that the next poet laureate of the United States will be Charles Wright. Wright is originally from Pickwick Dam, Tennessee. Coincidentally, I was in that area at the time that the announcement of his appointment was made, but I didn't hear about it until later.

I must confess that I am not familiar with the work of the man, who is a former professor at the University of Virginia and the author of 24 collections of poetry, but he is a much honored poet. He is described as taking Nature and spirituality as his major themes. In truth, I think that could be said of about ninety percent of poets.

I found this example of his work in Good Poems, American Places, selected by Garrison Keillor for his NPR feature "The Writer's Almanac."

Looking West from Laguna Beach at Night

by Charles Wright

I've always liked the view from my mother-in-law's house at night,
Oil rigs off Long Beach
Like floating lanterns out in the smog-dark Pacific,
Stars in the eucalyptus,
Lights of airplanes arriving from Asia, and town lights
Littered like broken glass around the bay and back up the hill.

In summer, dance music is borne up
On the sea winds from the hotel's beach deck far below,
"Twist and Shout," or "Begin the Beguine."
It's nice to think that somewhere someone is having a good time,
And pleasant to picture them down there
Turned out, tipsy and flushed, in their white shorts and their turquoise shirts.

Later, I like to sit and look up
At the mythic history of Western civilization,
Pinpricked and clued through the zodiac.
I'd like to be able to name them, say what's what and how who got where,
Curry the physics of metamorphosis and its endgame,
But I've spent my life knowing nothing.


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