January 20, 2021

UT Writer-in-Residence shares inspiration for poetry

UT Writer-in-Residence and poet, William Wright, shared the inspiration for his writing as part of the Writers in the Library series on Feb. 22.

William Wright //Photo by Tiara Holt

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Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, according to William Wright, the current UT Department of English Writer-in-Residence.

Wright read and discussed a number of his poems at a reading Monday, Feb. 22 in John C. Hodges Library.  The event was part of the University’s Writers in the Library series where distinguished authors and poets from around the country come to read and discuss their own work.

Wright’s poetry is considered unique because, unlike many other traditional southern poets, he writes in an informal style.

“When I began writing seriously, I [wrote] formal poems,” Wright said. “Then I fell in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins, who hit me with sort of this pyrotechnic force.  What I did then is say, ‘How am I going to synthesize this formal tradition with Hopkins…to create a contemporary poetry worth reading?’”

Wright then worked to develop an innovative yet southern style of free-verse poetry.

His poetry is considered southern because he draws a large amount of inspiration from the outdoors.  He discussed topics such as hikes, animals, snowstorms and orchards in his readings.

According to Art Smith, a poetry professor at UT, Wright “is a custodian of the land, of the southern earth itself…[and] a preserver and delighter of language [evidenced by the] lush and sometimes raucous sounds of words.”

Many of Wright’s poems were inspired by his sleep paralysis, a condition he has suffered from since he was 7-years-old.

“I see my dreams in my waking state, so I see things, I hear things, I smell things, I even sometimes have tactile sensations,”  he said.  “I try to make them art to help deal with the fact that I have this condition.”

Honor Lundt, a senior Linguistics major who attended the reading, appreciated the fact that Wright offered context to his poems by sharing the things that inspired his writing.

“A lot of times poetry represents an idea or an emotion, and [readers] kind of have to guess at the context,”Lundt said.  “It was interesting to hear him tell his stories and personal experiences that inspired the artwork.”

After the reading, Wright signed copies of his most recent book “Tree Heresies,” which was published in 2015.

The next Writers in the Library event will be held March 7 in the Lindsay Young Auditorium in John C. Hodges Library.

Featured image by Tiara Holt

Edited by Taylor Owens

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Elizabeth is a senior majoring in English, Technical Communications and minoring in Journalism and Electronic Media.