Wright, C.D. 1949–
Wright, C.D. 1949–
(Carolyn D. Wright)
PERSONAL: Born January 6, 1949, in Mountain Home, AR; daughter of Ernie Edward (a judge) and Alyce (a court reporter; maiden name, Collins) Wright; married Forrest Gander (a writer and teacher), April 3, 1983; children: Brecht. Education: Memphis State University (now University of Memphis), B.A., 1971; University of Arkansas, M.F.A., 1976.
CAREER: San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, lecturer in poetry writing and publishing, and office manager of Poetry Center, 1979–81; Brown University, Providence, RI, from faculty member to Israel J. Kapstein Professor of English, 1983–. Burren School of Art, County Clare, Ireland, visiting faculty, 1996; University of Iowa, visiting professor at Writers' Workshop, 1997; University of Cincinnati, Elliston poet-in-residence, 2004; guest on media programs. Lost Roads Publishers, member of advisory board. Creator of exhibitions, including "The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-in Book of Arkansas." Howard Foundation, member of board of directors, 1998–2000; Piper Center, Free Verse, and Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, member of board of directors.
MEMBER: PEN (member of council, 1997–).
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowship in creative writing, National Endowment for the Arts, 1981; Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1986; fellowships from John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, both 1987, and National Endowment for the Arts, 1988; poet laureate of Boone County, AR, 1987; General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers for literary essay, 1988; Whiting Foundation Award, 1989; Rhode Island Governor's Award for the Arts, 1990; Poetry Center Book Award, San Francisco State University, 1992, for String Light; Lila Wallace Writers' Award, Wallace Foundation, 1992; state poet of Rhode Island, 1994–99; Ozark Ambassador Award, Northwest Arkansas College, 1998; Rhode Island State Council on the Humanities grant, 1998; Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Arkansas, 1999; Lannan Literary Award, 1999; artist grant, Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts (now Foundation for Performing Arts), 1999; Dorothea Langue-Paul Taylor Prize for collaboration (with Deborah Luster), Center for Documentary Studies, 2000; MacArthur Fellowship, 2004; Robert Creely Award, 2005; named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005.
Alla Breve Loving (chapbook), Mill Mountain Press (Seattle, WA), 1976.
Room Rented by a Single Woman (chapbook), Lost Roads Publishing (Fayetteville, AR), 1977.
Terrorism (chapbook), Lost Roads Publishing (Fayetteville, AR), 1979.
Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1982.
Further Adventures with You, Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1986.
String Light, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1991.
Just Whistle: A Valentine, photographs by Deborah Luster, Kelsey Street Press (Berkeley, CA), 1993.
Tremble, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1996.
Deepstep Come Shining, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1998.
Steal Away: Selected and New Poems, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2001.
Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2005.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, edited by Cary Nelson, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000; An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate Diversity of Their Art, edited by Annie Finch and Erin Belieu, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2001; Poetry Performed, edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Mosby, Sourcebooks, 2001; and New Writings on Motherhood and Poetics, edited by Patricia Dienstfrey and Brenda Hillman, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2002.
The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-in Book of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1994.
(Editor) Besmilr Brigham, Run through Rock: Selected Short Poems of Besmilr Brigham, Lost Roads Publishers (Barrington, RI), 2000.
One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, photographs by Deborah Luster, Twin Palms (Austin, TX), 2003.
Also contributor to periodicals, including American Letters and Commentary, Brick, Chain, Conjunctions, Fence, Document, Ironwood, American Poetry Review, New Yorker, and Sulfur. Contributing editor, Five Fingers Review, 1991–97, and Free Verse (Internet journal), 2001–; editor, Ploughshares, 2002–03.
SIDELIGHTS: C.D. Wright's poetic roots are deeply planted in the Ozark Mountain region where she was born and raised. Wright began writing poetry on a full-time basis in the early 1970s. After completing her bachelor's degree, she briefly attended law school, but she wanted the freedom to write. She moved to New York City, working in an art auction house. Later, she attended the University of Arkansas to earn a master of fine arts in creative writing. In addition to teaching at Brown, she has worked as coeditor at Lost Roads Publishers, an independent literary press founded by poet Frank Stanford.
Wright earned positive notice for her first full-length collection of poetry, Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues. A number of critics felt that the poems in this volume succeed because of their stark simplicity, which grows out of their Ozark Mountain setting. The poems are concerned with small towns and the quiet loneliness of everyday life. In the New York Times Book Review, Robert B. Shaw called attention to the "trenchant, matter-of-fact manner" and the "casual, relentless clarity" of the poems. Kim Addonizio, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, praised the poems' "perfect clarity and seeming simplicity." Ironwood contributor Frances Mayes characterized the poems as "short, honed lyrics, both severe and musical"—the latter quality reflecting Wright's interest in music, particularly jazz, which finds expression in a group of poems titled "The Secret Life of Musical Instruments."
In 2001 Wright published her tenth volume of poetry, Steal Away: Selected and New Poems. The poems were written over a period of twenty years. Many of the poems contained in this volume have been previously published in other works, but there are also several new, previously unpublished poems. Wright's poetic style continues to be eclectic and experimental, employing multiple levels of diction, including vernacular.
Steal Away garnered positive reviews from many critics who found this book, and Wright's work in general, to be bold and refreshing, a departure from the more mainstream modern poetry found on bookshelves today. "Not only do her poems explore uncharted ground in both subject and form, each new volume seems to take new risks," observed Rochelle Ratner in the Library Journal. Other readers appreciated the author's ability to blend together previous works in order to create a new book with a completely new feel and flavor. Steal Away is a "careful selection from a strong body of work," concluded one Publishers Weekly contributor.
In 2005 Wright published Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil. This collection includes speculation, recollection, critical thoughts, and criticism. While the author relates tales from her life and the events that have shaped it, she also writes about her literary contemporaries, including authors W.S. Merwyn and Michael Ondaajte. Other passages include a reflection about one of Wright's old teachers and a description of a Southeastern road trip. Critics again praised Wright for her work in Cooling Time. For some, it is the author's reflections about a wide range of people and topics that make her book enjoyable to read. For others, Wright continues to surprise and intrigue her regular readers and new ones alike. "Readers who seek not autobiography but cogent thoughts, ideas, quotable claims about the state of the art … will find themselves delighted," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
Reviewers have also observed that Wright's work displays a strong dramatic quality. For instance, in Poetry Lorrie Goldensohn asserted that Wright's poems are "saturated with a human presence." Writing in Field, reviewer David Walker summarized the appeal of Wright's poetry, noting that though her poems are set in the Ozarks, her work is not "of simply regional interest; like [American author William] Faulkner she knows how to reach the universal through the local. She also shares something of [Austrian writer Franz] Kafka's sense of the ominousness of ordinary life, and of [American poet Emily] Dickinson's fascination with the habitual and ostensibly mundane. Yet Wright is never derivative; her voice and vision are genuinely original, vital, and haunting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 22, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
America's Intelligence Wire, September 30, 2004, "Brown U. English Dept. Poet Wins 'Genius Grant.'"
Booklist, May 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Steal Away: Selected and New Poems, p. 1500; February 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil, p. 1053.
Boston Review, December-January, 1997–98, Stephen Burt, "I Came to Talk You into Physical Splendor: On the Poetry of C.D. Wright," p. 31.
Daedalus, fall, 2004, Charles Altieri, "On Difficulty in Contemporary American Poetry," p. 113.
Field, spring, 1983, David Walker, review of Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues, p. 81.
Ironwood, spring, 1984, Frances Mayes, review of Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues, p. 174.
Jacket, December, 2001, Kent Johnson, "Looking for 'One Untranslatable Song': An Interview with C.D. Wright."
Library Journal, November 1, 1998, Ellen Kaufman, review of Deepstep Come Shining, p. 87; June 15, 2002, Rochelle Ratner, review of Steal Away, p. 71.
New Republic, October 21, 2002, Adam Kirsch, review of Stealing Away, p. 32.
New York Times Book Review, September 4, 1983, Robert B. Shaw, review of Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues, p. 8.
Ploughshares, winter, 2002, Nadia Herman Colburn, "About C.D. Wright," p. 204.
Poetry, April, 1984, Lorrie Goldensohn, review of Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues, p. 46; July, 2000, F.D. Reeve, review of Deepstep Come Shining, p. 236; June, 2003, David Orr, review of Steal Away, p. 170; June, 2005, D.H. Tracy, review of Cooling Time, p. 255.
Poetry Flash, August-September, 2001, Rusty Morrison, "Seeing Quick."
Publishers Weekly, November 15, 1993, review of Just Whistle: A Valentine, p. 76; July 27, 1998, review of Deepstep Come Shining, p. 72; May 27, 2002, review of Steal Away, p. 52; December 20, 2004, review of Cooling Time, p. 51.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 11, 1983, Kim Addonizio, review of Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues.
Voice Literary Supplement, April, 1994, review of Just Whistle.
American Collection, http://www.ncteamericancollection.org/ (December 9, 2005), Susan Huetteman, biography of C.D. Wright.
Brown University Alumni Magazine Online, http://www.brownalumnimagazine.edu/ (December 9, 2005), Charlotte Bruce Harvey, "Nesting in Razor Wire."
Brown University Web site, http://www.brown.edu/ (December 9, 2005), biography of C.D. Wright.
Jubilat Online, http://www.jubilat.org/ (December 9, 2005), interview with C.D. Wright.
Rain Taxi Online, http://www.raintaxi.com/ (December 9, 2005), Mark Nowak, review of Deepstep Come Shining.
University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign Department of English Web site, http://www.english.uiuc.edu/ (December 9, 2005), biography of C.D. Wright.