To support his poetry writing habit, Charles worked for twenty-five years as a professional gardener—for a convent, a residential treatment facility for troubled teens, and for the historic Benton County Courthouse. He has also worked as a correctional work crew supervisor, a farm hand, and a 'final finisher' in a toilet factory. He and his wife built their own house in Corvallis, near the confluence of the Marys and Willamette Rivers.
His poems and essays have appeared in Orion, Northwest Review, Willow Springs, The Sun, and Best Essays Northwest among many other publications, and a number of his poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on "The Writer's Almanac." He also co-edited the volume In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens.
He earned his MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and served for seven years as Director for the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word at Oregon State, a program that hosts writers' residencies, literary readings, and symposia at the intersection of literature, environmental science, and ethics.
Charles is the author of three volumes of poems, Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden, Insects of South Corvallis, and, just out from Silverfish Review Press, A Scripture of Crows, and a collection of essays about nature, parenting, and building their house, The Practice of Home.