Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday October 24, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
C. D. Wright

C. D. Wright

A new kind of vision

by Keith Taylor

From the April, 2008 issue

In her recent book Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil, C. D. Wright quotes pianist Glenn Gould: "The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline, but a gradual lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." If Wright, in one of the major poetic pilgrimages of our time, has not found serenity, she has certainly explored the wonder and found a way, entirely her own, to bring her readers into it.

Although the winner of just about every award a poet can win, including a MacArthur "genius" grant, and a writer who has always stressed her connection to a couple of very specific places (the Ozarks of Arkansas, where she

grew up, and Rhode Island, where she has lived for many years while teaching at Brown University), Wright has often been described as an "elliptical" or "oblique" or "difficult" poet. It is true that Wright often doesn't provide the connecting links between parts of her poems, but a reader willing to follow her jumps of perception will find the poems as easy to read as Robert Frost's. Wright worked out this method most clearly in Deepstep Come Shining, a 1998 book-length reflection on the American South and on the nature of her own memory.

She has since continued to explore these kinds of connections, particularly in One Big Self, a 2003 book that grew out of a collaboration with a photographer in the Louisiana prisons. It would be misleading to describe this book as a documentary poem, yet there is something of the documentary method in it. She includes quotes from different texts (even going back to Paul Verlaine and Oscar Wilde, great jailed poets of the nineteenth century), lots of quotes from prisoners she talked with, impressions from the roads and the advertising she saw around the prisons, and lyrical snatches from her own memory. Although there are no obvious links between the parts, there is an undeniable

...continued below...


tone. As Wright begins her prefatory note, "Driving through this part of Louisiana you can pass four prisons in less than an hour. 'The spirit of every age,' writes Eric Schlosser, 'is manifest in its public works.' So this is who we are, the jailers, the jailed. This is the spirit of the age."

One Big Self is a passionate and angry book, but it is also an exciting journey of discovery. See how Wright follows a quote that could as easily be from a jailer as from one of the jailed with a lyrical moment and an aside, at once bitter and wry, that might be a bit of graffiti:
It sure enough gets old
the way we do things

Defend me if you can
Collect my tears if you will

G-o-d is the boss with the sauce
he's too sweet to be sour


Once we enter Wright's extraordinary imagination, these moments come together into a new shape that changes and expands our own perceptions of the world.

C. D. Wright reads from her poems at the U-M Residential College Auditorium on Thursday, April 10.

[Review published April 2008]     (end of article)

 


 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Perfumes & Gifts by Shalimar Is Gone
Another swift departure on Main St.
Micheline Maynard
Individual Sports
European Restaurants
To Mask or Not to Mask
On Main St., a split verdict
Eve Silberman
Photo: WWII Veteran Honored in Chelsea
Burns Park Butterflies
Lynda Asher is raising monarchs.
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Ann Arbor's Forgotten Movie Star, by Tim Athan
Abercrombie & Fitch, Kasoa African Market
October 2021 Marketplace Closings
Micheline Maynard
Mystery Bins
Who's really collecting that used clothing?
Tim Athan
Afghans Arrive
JFS is on the case
Eve Silberman
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter