National Book Circle Critics Award
C.D. Wright’s work is enormously varied: she was an experimental writer, a Southern writer, and a socially committed writer, yet she continuously reinvented herself with each new volume. Much of her poetry is rooted in the landscape and people of her childhood in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Long admired for the honed ferocity of her vision, she wrote with a distinctive Southern accent and a cinematic eye, cut with a secular wit that only slightly tempers her exigency. The resulting poems are hypnotic documentaries that offer what she called ‘a once-and-for-all thing, opaque and revelatory, ceaselessly burning’. Bloodaxe published her first UK retrospective Like Something Flying Backwards: New & Selected Poems in 2007.
In One with Others, Wright returned to her native Arkansas and examines an explosive incident grounded in the Civil Rights Movement. In her signature style, she interweaves oral histories, hymns, lists, interviews, newspaper accounts, and personal memories – especially those of her incandescent mentor, V (Mrs Vittitow) – with the voices of witnesses, neighbours, police, activists and a group of black students who were rounded up and detained in an empty public swimming pool. This is a history told by many voices, and it leaps howling off the page. Both a book-length poem and a probing work of investigative journalism, One with Others won the National Book Circle Critics Award.
'One with Others represents Wright’s most audacious experiment yet in loading up lyric with evidentiary fact. An affecting element of this book is the way its elegiac impulses accord with, even as they chafe against, the documentary impulses' – Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
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'Through juxtaposition and repetition, [Wright] weaves a compelling, disturbing, and often beautiful tapestry that at once questions the ability of language to get at the complicated truth of history ('because the warp is everywhere'), and underscores the ethical imperative to try. As Wright learns from V, "To act, just to act. That was the glorious thing".' – Publishers Weekly
'Wright's sharply fractured, polyphonic, and suspenseful book-length poem is both a searing dissection of hate crimes and their malignant legacy and a lyric, droll, and fiery elegy to a woman of radiant resistance' – Booklist
'One with Others is potent because it is alive with voices, alive with suffering, alive with a language which earmarks an era, but also a message which seeks to persist. It is alive with an ideology of hatred that still courses through the United States today... Wright's rolling blend of voices helps the reader to access the psychic landscape of Civil Rights Era-Arkansas in a way that non-fiction and news reports do not... One with Others is a reckoning of ghosts' – Coldfront
'These ranging narratives – V’s life, the March, Wright’s journey – are blended in puzzle-piece increments, so the act of reading involves separating them out, constructing a frame, watching chronology and characters emerge. In this way, Wright insists that all these stories are one story, resisting the divisions of segregationists. "One with others" is both title and thesis' – The Antioch Review
'Bold, striking and sensual...as soothing as poetry filled to the brim with the bloody mess of living can hope to be. Hers is a harsh, unforgiving but richly beautiful world. It is not the America of sophisticated coastal cities or plush university campuses, but of small towns and villages in the middle of nowhere, in which death and nourishment stand together as they must... Wright is an unmistakeably Southern poet, but hers is not the South of wisteria-clad mansions we know from Hollywood confections; rather, it is the blue-collar South of blues and bluegrass... Her poems carry the voice of her native Arkansas, but her poetry is far too experimental and modernist, and too imbued with a range of international influences, to be pigeonholed as regional' – Vesna Goldsworthy, Guardian
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C.D. Wright reads 'Our Dust'
C.D. Wright reads a poem from Like Something Flying Backwards. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes five poems from Like Something Flying Backwards read by C.D. Wright.