Friday, January 15, 2016

Poetry Friday: C.D. Wright

“Poetry is a necessity of life. It is a function of poetry
to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.” 
C.D. Wright, 1949-2016

The intriguing and brilliant poet C.D. Wright died this last Tuesday, January 12th. She was only 67, born the same year I was born. That fact makes me feel vulnerable, reminds me that life is short. Enough said. I'm just going to post a poem in her honor - I puzzled over it for a long time and eventually learned to love it. Hoping the same for you.

[One tangential thought: I try to pick poetry for children on Poetry Fridays, but I don't always think that the category "child" means a young child. Teens can be offered poems written for adults (though when a poet writes a poem like this, is she thinking of audience?) Let's present more complicated and beautiful poems like this one to YA readers, in addition to the growing volume of verse novels (emphasis usually on "novel," not on "verse") which go only so far to kindle a passion for poetry, and which too often assume a limited desire on the part of teens to work hard at understanding something. This is a thick poem - a poem with weight - not much white space to it, which I feel can be a common flaw in verse novels. Here's a poem that can be read, then re-read, then discussed in a high school English class - discovering "the zones inside us that would be free" - oh, I'd like to hear that discussion. What an unexpected couple of lines this poem opens with, given its title. How wave-like it settles into the listing of moments in a life. What a last word to leave us with - "Instead."

I love a poem that makes us ask a question and does not, necessarily, provide the answer. A poem that sends us to bed wondering. Anyway, with no further opinion-pushing, here's C. D. Wright:

Everything Good Between Men and Women

   has been written in mud and butter
   and barbecue sauce. The walls and
   the floors used to be gorgeous.
   The socks off-white and a near match.
   The quince with fire blight
   but we get two pints of jelly
   in the end. Long walks strengthen
   the back. You with a fever blister
   and myself with a sty. Eyes
   have we and we are forever prey
   to each other’s teeth. The torrents
   go over us. Thunder has not harmed
   anyone we know. The river coursing
   through us is dirty and deep. The left
   hand protects the rhythm. Watch
   your head. No fires should be
   unattended. Especially when wind. Each
   receives a free swiss army knife.
   The first few tongues are clearly
   preparatory. The impression
   made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
   just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
   Bless it. We have so little time
   to learn, so much... The river
   courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
   Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.

   The Poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by Keri over at Keri Recommends. Head over there to see what other people have posted. 


  1. Well, I will need to read it again, and again, but my first reaction is that it's an acknowledgment of conflict, but love, tool There is much sorrow this week in these deaths that have happened. I am sorry for this loss, too. I have a hard time with saying children's poetry that applies to all, and yes, that for adult can be for YA too. Thanks, Julie

    1. I wrote this before I had heard about Francisco X. Alarcon - sad news all around. He said in a poem once that he would never have a period in a poem, that the only period would be the one that came at the end of his life....

  2. I read about C.D. Wright's death this week but am not familiar with her work. Thank you for sharing this poem. I will look for more of hers.

    1. She can be a little opaque, Ruth. Han on tight!

  3. I hear fragments of advice floating like ash from a fire (maybe the fire in the poem).

    1. Fragments of advice - interesting take on it!

  4. Thunder has not harmed
    anyone we know.

    So why are we so afraid to go outside in a storm? Should we throw caution to the wind? (Horribly cliche, I know.) That's what life's all about, isn't it?

    1. Actually, though, my favorite line is
      The socks off-white and a near match.

      That's my life in a nutshell.

    2. Mine, too, Diane ("a near match.")

    3. When I read the line about thunder not having harmed anybody, my first thought was, "How about lightning?" It felt to me like she was reminding us that the things we think will hurt us might not (though the things we fail to think of might...?)

  5. So much to unpack here -- what struck me is the tone of experience and acceptance of imperfect reality. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Imperfect reality - that's certainly true....

  6. Thanks for paying tribute to C.D. Wright, Julie. I am still new enough to poetry that I don't always know what I am missing when a poet is taken from us too soon. It's been a sad week for sure.

  7. Sad, indeed, Michelle. I was feeling blue about C.D. Wright, then heard about Francisco X. Alarcon. I first knew him through his fine work for children, but his work for adults left me completely wowed.

    Thanks for visiting The Drift Record.

  8. The first few lines (so stark, the imagery) and the last few lines (so powerful) got to me - this is a poem to read and re-read and read again - so much to savor.

  9. I like a title that continues into a meaty poem, such as this which sounds true & demands coming back to. This suggests C.D. Wright lived a full life & that her relationships were honest & pure.