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C. D. Wright: A Tribute

On January 12, 2016, C. D. Wright died unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of sixty-seven. At the time, C. D. was serving on our Board of Chancellors, an honorary body of esteemed poets that has included W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Mark Strand, and many other poets who have helped define the art of poetry in the United States. During her tenure, C. D. contributed greatly to our organization. She advocated for our having an open mind about the poets we supported—more often than not, advocating for young poets. And, she played an important role on our Poets Emergency Fund committee, making sure we were sending financial assistance to poets in crisis and need. Her humor, generosity of spirit, and fiercely brilliant artistry will have a lasting impact on all of us. 

In tribute to C. D. and the many lives she touched in the poetry community—including her fellow Chancellors' and ours—we've gathered a selection of photographs, poems, essays, and tributes by those who knew her.

poem

Continuum

“beautiful things fill every vacancy”

                                  for C. D. Wright

         filaments of her gift
persistent mysteries
     palpable consciousness
a world of naming
    of ablutions in time
        fighter instinct
action, the pressing in,
        closing in
            heart thrums
for a powerful image
       dazzling light:
redemption!
       to reassess language, 
its tactility
   emotion, lyric, oblique 
irony twists, shifts by
   pulse & ear, resilient
her consummate body poetics
    echo into night
it hits us what is now absent
    from every bouquet
cut like flowers before their time
Anne Waldman
2016
poem

from One With Others

     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.

 

          +++

 

     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 been inside] or die in the swimming pool [without ever having been in it, except when drained, and the police had him in their sights]. Or if, because he was a young man, he would never die. I attach V to my driving-around thoughts.

 

     An object unworthy of love she thought she was.

 

     It was a cri de coeur.

 

     Those of our get had given her a nom de guerre: V.

 

     A simple act, to join a march against fear

     down an old military road.

 

     We were watching an old movie the night

 

     the table started walking toward us

 

     and there was trouble on Division.

 

     She became a disaffiliated member [of her race].

 

     I'm one of them now, she said, upon release

 

     from jail. I am an invader.

 

 

 

     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

 

+++

 

                                                                                   For me

 

     it has always been a series of doors:

 

     if one is opened precipitously a figure is caught bolting from bed

 

     if another, a small table, a list of demands on school paper

 

     if another, a child on the linoleum, saying she wants a white doll

 

     a woman sitting on a bed, holding a folded flag

 

     a shelf of trophies behind her head

 

     an ironing board, bottle of bourbon on the end

 

     sewing machine on a porch

 

     To walk down the road without fear

 

     To sit in a booth and order a sweet soft drink

 

     To work at the front desk

 

     To be referred to as Gentleman

 

     To swim in the pool

 

     To sit in the front row and watch Run Wild, Run Free [next week: Death of a Gunfighter]

 

     To make your way to the end of the day with both eyes in your head

 

     Nothing is not integral

 

     You want to illumine what you see

 

     Fear reflected off an upturned face

 

     Those walnuts turning black in the grass

 

     It is a relatively stable world

 

     Gentle Reader

 

     But beyond that door

 

     It defies description

C. D. Wright
2011
poem

Imaginary Morning Glory

Whether or not the water was freezing. The body

would break its sheathe. Without layer on layer

of feather and air to insulate the loving belly.

A cloudy film surrounding the point of entry. If blue

were not blue how could love be love. But if the body

were made of rings. A loose halo would emerge

in the telluric light. If anyone were entrusted to verify

this rare occurrence. As the petal starts to

dwindle and curl unto itself. And only then. Love,

blue. Hallucinogenic blue, love.

C. D. Wright
2014
poem

Obscurity and Elegance

Whether or not the park was safe

she was going in. A study concluded, for a park

to be successful there had to be women.

The man next to the monument must have broken

away from her. Perhaps years

before. That the bond had been carnal is obvious.

He said he was just out clearing his head.

They followed the walk of pollarded pears. His tone

distant but not disinterested. It was

an expensive suit, she could tell by the cut.

His face blocked by the felted hat. The cocked night

studded with satellites. Women

were known not to enter a park

if they smelled urine. They passed under the arch

together. At this point, he allowed, it

would be fine by him if he could sit at his desk

and watch his writing happen.

C. D. Wright
2013