Pulitzer-Winning Poet Visits; Franz Wright Meets with Students at Douglas Anderson

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

Poet Franz Wright took center stage in the narrow classroom, a cup of coffee placed on a table nearby as he sat before a dozen high school seniors May 4.

The wiry Massachusetts man won the 2004 Pulitzer prize for poetry and is doing a lot of public speaking tours, including a week at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts at the invitation of department head Danielle Hyrne.

But as the air conditioner hummed behind him, he found this class was for writers of prose and not poetry. Working on what he called "the inspiration of the moment," he launched into a free-ranging discussion of writers, mostly eschewing his own works as he reveled in working with younger writers.

"I love talking to kids this age. I much prefer it to my experiences of working with college students, who seem to be under the impression that they know everything and are kind of arrogant about it," he said. "People this age seem more open and are more involvable. They don't look at you like you might be a danger to their ideas."

Two students who read their works to Wright said they felt a mixture of nerves and appreciation at his presence.

Chris Lloyd said he is normally comfortable with his writings.

"But I was of course nervous because he is a very imposing figure, so I am not sure what to think about his response -- very neutral, but it could have hints of something else," the 17-year-old said. "He says more in a few words than most people can."

Kathryn Wetzel said she didn't think much about who she was reading to until later.

"Then I was like 'Wow, I read to a Pulitzer Prize winner!'," said the 18-year-old. "I love literature, so being around writers really makes me want to write more."

Wright's 13 works include 2003'sWalking to Martha's Vineyard, which won the 2004 Pulitzer. Hyrne invited him after she heard him speak at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in early October. Wright's Jacksonville visit included a poetry reading May 3 at the school, then a series of workshops with students, notebooks ready as he launched his discussion. …