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About this poet

On January 6, 1949, C. D. Wright was born in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She received a BA degree from Memphis State College (now the University of Memphis) in 1971 and an MFA from the University of Arkansas in 1976.

She has published numerous volumes of poetry including One With Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), which received the 2011 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; 40 Watts (Octopus Books, 2009); Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), which won the Griffin Poetry Prize; Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil (Copper Canyon Press, 2005); One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana (Copper Canyon Press, 2003), with photographer Deborah Luster; and Steal Away: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2002).

Her other books include Deepstep Come Shining (Copper Canyon Press, 1998); Tremble (Ecco Press, 1996); Just Whistle: A Valentine (Kelsey St. Press, 1993); String Light (University of Georgia Press, 1991), which won the Poetry Center Book Award; Further Adventures with You (Carnegie Mellon, 1986); and Translation of the Gospel Back into Tongues (State University of New York Press, 1981). She has also published two state literary maps, one for Arkansas, her native state, and one for Rhode Island, her adopted state.

While much of Wright's early work is narrative in content, her later poetry is characterized by experimental forms, sharp wit, and a strong sense of place, most notably rooted in the Ozarks and Rhode Island. "Poetry is a necessity of life," Wright has said. "It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so."

About her work, a reviewer for The New Yorker wrote: "Wright has found a way to wed fragments of an iconic America to a luminously strange idiom, eerie as a tin whistle, which she uses to evoke the haunted quality of our carnal existence."

Among her numerous honors are a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Award, the Witter Bynner Prize, and fellowships from the Bunting Institute, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She served as Poet Laureate of Rhode Island from 1994-1999.

In 2013, Wright was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Anne Waldman praised her selection, saying: "Brilliantly astute, generous, witty, panoramic, celebratory, C.D. Wright is one of our most fearless writers, possessed with an urgency that pierces through the darkness of our time. She carries a particular Southern demographic that bears witness, that investigates history, humanity, and consciousness in powerfully innovative, often breathtaking language. Hers is a necessary poetics, on fire with life and passion for what matters."

With her husband, poet Forrest Gander, she edits Lost Roads Publishers. Wright teaches at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Selected Bibliography

One With Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010)
40 Watts (Octopus Books, 2009)
Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)
Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, with Deborah Luster, (Copper Canyon Press, 2003)
Steal Away: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2002)
Deepstep Come Shining (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)
Tremble (Ecco Press, 1996)
Just Whistle: A Valentine (Kelsey St. Press, 1993)
String Light (University of Georgia Press, 1991)
Further Adventures with You (Carnegie Mellon, 1986)
Translation of the Gospel Back into Tongues (State University of New York Press, 1981)
Terrorism (Lost Roads Press, 1979)
Room Rented By A Single Woman (Lost Roads Press, 1977)

One With Others [It was hotter then]

C. D. Wright, 1949
It was hotter then. It was darker. No sir, it was whiter. Just pick up a paper.

You would never suspect 66% of the population was invisible. You would

never even suspect any of its people were nonwhite until an elusive Negro was

arrested in Chicago or the schedule for the annual Negro Fair was published or 

a popular Negro social studies teacher was fired for an insubordinate letter to

the superintendent and a spontaneous rebellion sprang up in a Negro classroom

in the form of flying chairs and raggedy books and a pop bottle thrown at a light

fixture, and then, the lists of long long suffered degradations backed up and


       Parades without permits/ Boycotted stores

       Funeral home turned into a Freedom Center

       Kids arrested en masse and put in a swimming pool

       V died during Operation Enduring Freedom

       A bottle a day, she got annihilated/ Two packs a day

       Always preoccupied with last things/ Always a touch eschatological

       Always took a little tabula rasa with her caffeine

       When I asked the neighbor if she knew the woman who lived there in 1969/

       Oh yes she said/ She knew her

       She didn't trust me and I didn't trust her

       I don't blame her though/ Everything

       was so confusing/ She stayed to herself

       She was overwhelmed/ That poor woman...

       She was right/ We were wrong


       They've got souls/ Just like you and me


       The marchers are approaching the town of Hazen

       where not so long ago an earth scraper turned up

       a mastodon skull and a tusk on the military road

       In Big Tree: People are turning in

       Only sure thing were the prices:

       Grown-ups know the cost of a head of lettuce,

       a fryer, a package of thighs; a $500 bag of seed

       covers about 5 acres; it takes 20 square feet of cotton

       for a medium-size blouse; where nothing is planted,

       nothing much grows. The dirt is hard-packed.

       The trees were gone by the first war. The first to go,

       the most marvelous one, the red cypress,

       made beautiful instruments. The fields,

       not gone, but empty. Cotton turned to soybeans.

       Mussels from the river turned to salvage.

       Fishing for tires on the silted-up water.

       Some are left digging an old bur out of their foot.

       Some go up/ Some go down [Big Tree church sign]

       A race-free conversation hard to have back then.

       Back then, the hotdog wagon doubled as a brothel.

       Come again.

       DEAR ABBY,

       I am 11 years old but I know all the facts of life because I live in a dirty

neighborhood. My problem is that in our family we get pregnate quick. My

sister got pregnate when she was 16 just by sitting next to a boy in church. Can

this be?


       No, somebody must have moved.


       People study the dingy chenille clouds for a sign.

       People did what they have done.

       A town, a time, and a woman who lived there.

       And left undone what they ought not to have did.

From One With Others by C. D. Wright. Copyright © 2011 by C. D. Wright. Published by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

C. D. Wright

C. D. Wright

Author of numerous volumes of poetry, Wright has served as the poet laureate of Rhode Island, and in 2013 was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

       I take one more drive across town thinking about the retired welding

teacher easing over that rise seeing the parking lot full of white men. I wonder

if he thought he would die in the jungle [where no Vietcong ever called him

[N-word] ] or he would die in front of the bowling alley [without ever having
       Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her

       Nor the depleted breasts not the hand that never knew

       tenderness nor eyes that glistened

       Not the people dragging canvas bags

       through the ragged fields

       Not the high mean whine of mosquitoes

       Not another
A girl on the stairs listens to her father
Beat up her mother.
Doors bang.
She comes down in her nightgown.

The piano stands there in the dark 
Like a boy with an orchid.

She plays what she can
Then she turns the lamp on.

Her mother's music is spread out
On the floor like brochures.

She hears her father