poem index

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 [Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her]

C. D. Wright, 1949
       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 year of shoe-top cotton

       No more white buck shoes for Henry

       No peaches this year on the Ridge, and no other elevation

       around to coast another mile out of the tank

       No eel in L'Anguille

       Not the aphrodisiac of crossing over

       Not the hole in the muffler circling the house

       Not a shot of whiskey before a piece of bread

       Not to live anymore as a distended beast

       Not the lying-in again

       Not the suicide of the goldfish

       Not the father's D.T's

       Not the map of no-name islands in the river

       Not the car burning in the parking lot

       Not the sound but the shape of the sound

       Not the clouds rucked up over the clothesline

       The copperhead in the coleus

       Not the air hung with malathion

       Not the boomerang of bad feelings

       Not stacks of poetry, long-playing albums, the visions of Goya and friends

       Not to be resuscitated

       and absolutely no priests, up on her elbows, the priests confound you

and then they confound you again. They only come clear when you're on your

deathbed. We must speak by the card or equivocation will undo us.




       Look into the dark heart and you will see what the dark eats other than

your heart




       The world is not ineluctably finished




       though the watchfires have been doused




       more walls have come down




       more walls are being built




       Sound of the future, uncanny how close




       to the sound of the old




       At Daddy's Eyes




       "Pusherman" still on the jukebox




       Everybody's past redacted

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

poem
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
poem
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
poem
       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