Franz Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, dies at 62


Poet Franz Wright, 62, died at his home in Waltham, Mass., on Thursday after a long struggle with lung cancer, his publisher Knopf confirmed. Wright’s 2003 collection “Walking to Martha’s Vineyard” won the Pulitzer Prize.

Wright was born March 18, 1953, in Austria and as raised in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. His father was the poet James Wright, also a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Wright’s books of poetry include “F” (2013), “Kindertotenwald” (2011), “Wheeling Motel” (2009), “God’s Silence” (2006), “Walking to Martha’s Vineyard” (2003) and “The Beforelife” (2001), all published by Knopf.


His longtime editor at Knopf, Deborah Garrison, said, “Franz wrote fearlessly about mental illness, addiction and loneliness as well as about faith and the unending beauty of his world, no matter how broken; he never wrote a line that wasn’t fiercely important to him, musical, as witty as it was deadly serious. Franz lived for poetry -- at times it seemed it kept him alive -- and he managed to write poems in which the choice to live feels continually renewed, not just an urgent daily requirement for the poet but a call to arms that includes every single reader.”

His many awards include a Whiting Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wright is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright.

A poem by Wright, shared by Knopf upon his death, is below.

Crumpled-Up Note Blowing Away

by Franz Wright

Were no one
here to witness it,
could the sun be
said to shine? Clearly,
you pedantic fool.

But I’ve said all that
I had to say.
In writing.
I signed my name.
It’s death’s move.

It can have mine, too.
It’s a perfect June morning,
and I just turned eighteen;
I can’t even believe
what I feel like today.

Here am I, Lord,
sitting on a suitcase,
waiting for my train.
The sun is shining.
I’m never coming back.

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