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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 the forthcoming 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

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)

The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-In Book of Arkansas (University of Arkansas, 2009)


One With Others [It was hotter then]

C. D. Wright, 1949 - 2016

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.

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 served as the poet laureate of Rhode Island, and in 2013 was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet


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


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


The hand was having a hard time holding the pen.

A superficial cut.

A long clear silent night.

A book held open by a dolostone.

The occupant selects a sentence, No one knows
how small the smallest life is.

If there’s a call, it will not be answered.

A bath; the burning of