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March 2, 2007AWP Conference, AtlantaFrom the Academy Audio Archive

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)

 

Tours

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
Running through the leaves.

The last black key
She presses stays down, makes no sound
Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been.

From Steal Away: New and Selected Poems by C. D. Wright (Copper Canyon Press, 2002). Copyright © 1982 by C. D. Wright. Originally appeared in Translation of the Gospel Back Into Tongues: Poems, published by State University of New York Press, 1982. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.

From Steal Away: New and Selected Poems by C. D. Wright (Copper Canyon Press, 2002). Copyright © 1982 by C. D. Wright. Originally appeared in Translation of the Gospel Back Into Tongues: Poems, published by State University of New York Press, 1982. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. 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

poem

Since the day the bell was cast

I have sat in the bishop’s carved chair and waited my turn

with my feet crossed at the ankles, and the leather of my huaraches

cutting into the hide of my foot.

From where I was sitting I watched the light being drawn off

the magnolias in the Plaza de

poem

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

2
poem

You could ask any one of them up by the lake
                                               It had presence

Fold of coldness folded over cold

The rumors of what was beyond
                                         mostly worthless

You had to take into account who was telling

2