Born on August 25, 1935, in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Charles Wright was educated at Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He began to read and write poetry while stationed in Italy during his four years of service in the U.S. Army, and published his first collection of poems, The Grave of the Right Hand (Wesleyan University Press), in 1970. His second and third collections, Hard Freight (1973) and Country Music: Selected Early Poems (1983), were both nominated for National Book Awards; the latter received the prize.
Since then, Wright has published numerous collections of poems, including Caribou (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); Scar Tissue (2007), which was the international winner for the Griffin Poetry Prize; Black Zodiac (1997), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Chickamauga (1995), which won the 1996 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His latest collection, Oblivion Banjo: The Poetry of Charles Wright, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in November 2019.
Wright has also written two volumes of criticism: Halflife (1988) and Quarter Notes (1995) and has translated the work of Dino Campana in Orphic Songs (Oberlin College Press, 1984) as well as Eugenio Montale's The Storm and Other Poems (1978), which was awarded the PEN Translation Prize.
He taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as the Souder Family Professor of English. His many honors include the 2013 Bollingen Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and served until 2002. In 2014, he was appointed United States Poet Laureate.