Franz Wright (1953-2015), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Catholic convert, struggled with addiction and depression. He wrote movingly of isolation, illness, and religious transcendence.

His work includes the poetry collections “God’s Silence” (2006); “Wheeling Motel” (2009); “Kindertotenwald” (2011); and “F” (2013). He won the Pulitzer in 2004 for “Walking to Martha’s Vineyard” (2001).

Perhaps most movingly, he never left his watch. Fidelity to an artistic vocation, he demonstrated, is not for the faint of heart.

Wright was born in Vienna, Austria, to the poet James Wright and his wife, Liberty (now Kovacs), an American-born daughter of Greek immigrants who later became a nurse. The elder Wright suffered from alcoholism and manic-depression, and the marriage was tempestuous. As a child Wright was exposed through his father to such literary luminaries as Theodore Roethke, Saul Bellow, and Robert Bly. His parents divorced when he was 8. His mother remarried a man who Wright claimed was physically abusive.

He began writing as an adolescent. In a 2006 interview with Image Journal, he told of his first poem: “In the summer my mother and stepfather and I used to go to Clear Lake, California, up above Napa Valley. I woke up early one morning and had a strange feeling. I took a walk around dawn out into a walnut orchard, and I sat down. This ecstasy came over me, and I started to write. I ended up writing a seven-line poem. … It was clear to me that I had to have this sensation again. I had never felt anything like this. … From that day I never stopped being obsessed with this sense that I had a calling to do this. There was something mystical about it, like a religious calling. Everything else would have to go. It was a kind of dread I felt. I thought I could see my whole future. I would probably have to give up any idea of having a normal life.”

He sent the seven lines to his father. “You’re a poet,” James Wright replied. “Welcome to hell.”

As an adult, Wright taught poetry at various universities, held down jobs in mental health clinics, and worked as a volunteer to grieving children. He was also hospitalized himself on several occasions for depression and alcoholism.

In 1999, he married the American translator Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright. He also achieved sobriety that year and converted to Roman Catholicism.

Wright deeply admired Bashō, the 17th-century haiku master. “The simplest things are very difficult to do in writing,” he once noted. “Just to write very simply and clearly is probably the hardest thing to do in writing.”

Critic Helen Vender observed in the New York Review of Books, “Wright's scale of experience … runs from the homicidal to the ecstatic.”

Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller wrote that “Kindertotenwald” [loosely translated as “forest of dead children”] is “ultimately about joy and grace and the possibility of redemption, about coming out whole on the other side of emotional catastrophe.”

Novelist Denis Johnson said of Wright’s book “Entry in an Unknown Hand”: “These poems break me, they’re like tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers — miraculous gifts.”

In an interview with American poet and critic Ernest Hilbert entitled “The Secret Glory” and published in 2006, Wright was asked, “Must one feel extremes of pain or love to create authentic poetry, or is stylistic capacity enough?”

He responded, “You must have both, clearly. And have them to a terrible, excruciating, and obsessive degree.”

“Religion seems to be central to your writing,” Hilbert continued. “Can you say a few words about how religion has affected your life and your view of the world?”

“My religious faith is very real and literal, almost to a childlike degree — though with my ancient skepticism and dread of abandonment thrown in — and I can only say it has made it possible for me to go on living. I would not have been able to go on living otherwise.”

Of winning the Pulitzer, Wright said, “I consider it a great honor, and it still amazes me, and I think it will always amaze me.” His father James Wright also won the Pulitzer for poetry, making them the only parent-child pair to have done so in the history of the prize.

At the same time, he found fame to be a heavy cross. “What advice would you give young poets?” he was asked by Image Journal.

“My first impulse is always to say, ‘Do something else,’ ” he replied. “Seriously, what kept me going as a young person was love. Not ambition, but love. … If your motive is pure, if your motive is love for this thing, inspiration will find you. … And success will come, though we know there are great exceptions to this. We know that success didn’t come to Emily Dickinson or Van Gogh. But maybe it did. Maybe the ultimate success came to them. Maybe their joy would have been diluted by worldly success. Mine has been. It’s a disaster. You don’t know this until it happens, and then it’s too late. You can never go back. You can never get your private, anonymous love back.”

Wright died of cancer at his home in Waltham, Massachusetts, on May 14, 2015. He was 62.

“Soon, soon,” he wrote in “Nude with Handgun and Rosary,” “between one instant and the next, you will be well.”