Academic journal article Field

C.D. Wright: A Field Symposium

Academic journal article Field

C.D. Wright: A Field Symposium

Article excerpt

When C.D. Wright died unexpectedly this past January, American poetry lost one of its most innovative and crucial voices. In a career of over forty years she brought incisive intelligence, passionate curiosity about the world, and a fearless sense of experiment to bear on a remarkable variety of subjects; what remained constant in her work was its exactitude about language and its radically democratic vision. Her 2005 manifesto Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil starts with the following declaration: "I believe in a hard-headed art, an unremitting, unrepentant practice of one's own faith in the word in one's own obstinate terms. I believe the word was made good from the start; it remains so to this second.... There is not much poetry from which I feel barred, whether it is arcane or open in the extreme. I attempt to run the gamut because I am pulled by the extremes. I believe the word used wrongly distorts the world." Those principles are central to her writing in all of its forms.

Wright's first major volume, Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues (1982), is deeply grounded in the hills of Arkansas where she was raised; its subjects are rural and domestic, its voices equally vernacular and mysterious. By the time of her next book, Further Adventures with You (1986), she'd left Arkansas, lived in San Francisco and Mexico, and begun teaching in Rhode Island, and her frame of reference had accordingly shifted. As she said in the preface to that volume, she was "no longer committed to pursuing a course whereby my language is rife with idiom Ozarkia. …

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