Carolyn D. Wright
|Carolyn D. Wright|
|Born||Carolyn Doris Wright
January 6, 1949
Mountain Home, Arkansas
|Died||January 12, 2016
Barrington, Rhode Island
|Alma mater||University of Memphis, University of Arkansas|
|Known for||MacArthur Fellowship|
C. D. Wright was born in Mountain Home, Arkansas to a chancery judge and a court reporter. She earned a BA in French from Memphis State College (now the University of Memphis) in 1971 and briefly attended law school before leaving to pursue an MFA from the University of Arkansas, which she received in 1976. Her poetry thesis was titled Alla Breve Loving. In 1977 the publishing company founded by Frank Stanford, Lost Roads Publishers, published Wright's first collection, Room Rented by A Single Woman. After Stanford died in 1978, Wright took over Lost Roads, continuing the mission of publishing new poets and starting the practice of publishing translations. In 1979, she moved to San Francisco, where she met poet Forrest Gander. Wright and Gander married in 1983 and had a son, Brecht, and co-edited Lost Roads until 2005. In 1981, Wright lived in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico and completed her third book of poems, Translation of the Gospel Back into Tongues. In 1983 she moved to Providence, Rhode Island to teach writing at Brown University as the Israel J. Kapstein Professor of English. In 2013, Wright was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Stephen Burt has described her as an Elliptical Poet, but that was not a term that Burt used in an essay he published as a tribute to Wright just after her death. As Joel Brouwer has said, she "…belongs to a school of exactly one."
C.D. Wright died on January 12, 2016 at the age of 67. Her husband reported that she "died peacefully in her sleep of thrombosis, a clot, after an overly long flight from Chile." At the time of her death, she was living in Barrington, Rhode Island.
Wright's poetry is rooted in a sense of place and time and often employs distinct voices in dialogue, particularly those of the American South. Her work is formally inventive and often documentary in spirit, in the sense that it honors those whose stories or voices might be lost were it not for her writing. Her diction mixes high and low to surprising effect, and her range of reference is both broad and deep, including phrases from other languages, allusions to other poems, and pieces of conversation. Her books include precisely distilled lyrics such as those collected in Tremble as well as book-length poems beginning with Just Whistle, her first collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster.
In a 2001 interview with Kent Johnson, Wright said, "As to my own aesthetic associations / affiliations / sympathies: I have never belonged to a notable element of writers who identified with one another partly because I come from Arkansas, specifically that part of Arkansas known for its resistance-to-joining, a non-urban environment where readily identifiable groups and sub-groups are less likely to form." In the same interview, she states, "… The theoretically-driven San Francisco poets who were in cahoots with poets in New York and conversant with European vanguard movements — they provided me with a need to become critically aware of my back-home ways; sharpened me to a degree. I’m grateful for the exposure, the education. I am indebted to particular poets’ work from that point in time, but I am not an intellectual in the sense that qualifies or requires me to belong to a manifestoed-group. And of course one comes to take some pride in one's own outsider status." 
Wright has published literary maps of both Rhode Island and Arkansas. Wright's later work includes String Light; Deepstep Come Shining, a book-length poem; and One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, another collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster. One Big Self: An Investigation (Copper Canyon Press, 2007) contains just the poems. Her poems are featured in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006) and many other anthologies. Her most recent book, One With Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010) mixes investigative journalism, history and poetry to explore homegrown civil rights incidents and the critical role her mentor, a brilliant and difficult woman, played in a little-known 1969 March Against Fear in her native Arkansas.
- 1987 Guggenheim Fellowship
- 1989 Whiting Award
- 1994 Poet Laureate of the state of Rhode Island
- 1999 Foundation for Contemporary Arts, grant
- 2004 MacArthur Fellowship
- 2009 Rising, Falling, Hovering winner Griffin Poetry Prize
- 2010 One With Others, nominee National Book Award (Poetry)
- 2010 One With Others, winner National Book Critics Circle Award (Poetry)
- "C.D. Wright Interview with Kent Johnson for Jacket". English.uiuc.edu. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- "C. D. Wright (1949–2016) - Encyclopedia of Arkansas".
- "Academy of American Poets".
- "C.D. Wright Interview with Kent Johnson for Jacket". English.illinois.edu. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Poet C.D. Wright was 'one of the great ones'
- "Counting the Dead". The New York Times. June 22, 2008.
- "C. D. Wright, January 6, 1949–January 12, 2016".
- "C.D. Wright, ex-R.I. state poet and MacArthur 'genius grant' winner, dies at 67". The Providence Journal. January 14, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Johnson, Kent. “Looking for ‘one untranslatable song’: C.D. Wright on poetics, collaboration, American prisoners, and Frank Stanford.” Jacket 15 (December 2001). http://jacketmagazine.com/15/cdwright-iv.html
- "C.D. Wright wins high honor: Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize | Today at Brown". Today.brown.edu. June 4, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- "Copper Canyon Press: One Big Self: An Investigation, poetry by C.D. Wright".
- "Copper Canyon Press: One With Others by C.D. Wright".
- "C. D. Wright - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Gf.org. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Bryan Rourke (June 2, 2009). "Brown prof’s book of poetry a finalist in an international run-off". The Providence Journal.
- "Awards and Poets | Shortlists | 2009 Shortlist". Griffin Poetry Prize. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- "C.D. Wright, One with Others - 2010 National Book Award Poetry Finalist, The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Griffin Poetry Prize biography
- Griffin Poetry Prize readings, including video clips
- Profile at The Whiting Foundation
- .mp3 recording of Wright reading from "One Big Self" during the Key West Literary Seminar, 2003
- C. D. Wright--The Academy of American Poets
- "Interview", Kent Johnson, Jacket Magazine
- "Only the crossing counts," Slate magazine
- Bent Tones by C. D. Wright
- Overview Wright's work at Open Letters
- Interview with CD Wright on Words on a Wire