Using diverse forms and content—portraiture, narrative, brief lyric, prose poem, confession, elegy, found poems, dramatic monologue, scatter lines, documentary and imagistic vignette—Charles’s poetry reflects his lifelong fascination with the varieties of spoken English. At times, the poem that emerges from this celebration of sound and diction is an exercise in form; at other times, an experiment in wordplay, or a simple, discursive narrative. Some poems “channel” the dialects of relatives and neighbors from inner city Baltimore, Bedford Stuyvesant, West Cape May, New Jersey, and folks in South Carolina’s Low Country. Recent poems that appear in the voice of his alter ego Herald accommodate rural African Americans’ wisdom, concerns and humor.
Two commitments profoundly influence Charles’s writing and artistic vision. Since 1990, he has been a member of the Baha’i faith, which has deepened his understanding of how we can live globally in peace and harmony. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, he attended Cave Canem Foundation’s writing retreat with other poets of African descent. Those empowering weeks gave him greater confidence in his craft and a sustained commitment to investigating ways in which we humans can negotiate our identities and achieve a sense of dignity without harming others. In June 2010 he was awarded a Fellowship for Cave Canem Poets at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts that was sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts.