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About this poet

C. D. Wright was born in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on January 6, 1949. She received a BA degree from Memphis State University (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 ShallCross (Copper Canyon Press, 2016); One With Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), which received the 2011 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the National Book Critics Circle Award; 40 Watts (Octopus Books, 2009); Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), which won the 2009 International 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, which won the Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University; 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.

Her collection of essays, The Poet, The Lion, Taking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All Paperback was published in January, also by Copper Canyon.

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 Mexico, 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, the 2005 Robert Creeley 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 state poet of Rhode Island from 1994 to 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."

She was the former coeditor—with her husband, poet Forrest Gander—of Lost Roads Publishers. Wright taught at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She passed away on January 12, 2016. 

 

 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
ShallCross (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
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)

Prose
The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-In Book of Arkansas (University of Arkansas, 2009)

 

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

Originally published in One with Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Copyright © by C. D. Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Originally published in One with Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Copyright © by C. D. Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

C. D. Wright

C. D. Wright

Author of numerous volumes of poetry, Wright 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

The left hand rests on the paper.

The hand has entered the frame just below the elbow.

The other hand is in its service.

The left moves along a current that is not visible
and on a signal likewise inaudible, goes still.

For the hand to respond the ink must be black.

There is no

2
poem

The set was on when she fell asleep

 

In black and white

 

a woman  was gliding through a garden in period clothes

 

and a child was touching

 

 a pane of wavy  glass with the flat of her hand

 

Another woman

 

was all but flying down a spiral

2
poem
Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger,

collected in

collection
On January 12, 2016, C. D.