C. D. Wright, the acclaimed Arkansas-born poet, died suddenly this week. She had turned 67 on Jan. 6.
The Mountain Home native won a MacArthur genius award and a Guggenheim fellowship among other achievements in an illustrious career.
The Poetry Foundation provided this news release from her publisher, Copper Canyon Press.
C.D. Wright, beloved prize-winning poet and writing professor at Brown University, unexpectedly passed away in her home on January 12, 2016. Her most recent book had just been published. The cause of death is yet to be determined.
Born in Mountain Home, Arkansas, in 1949, Wright attended Memphis State University and the University of Arkansas. The Southern landscape became a source of inspiration for her writing, including the critically-acclaimed collection, One With Others (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was finalist for the National Book Award.
Known for a signature styling of journalistic investigation, hybrid language, collaborations, and sharp wordplay, Wright’s writing captured the depths of emotion while engaging in redefining literary activism. She was also fiercely committed to poetry, and wrote: “I poetry. I write it, study it, read it, edit it, publish it, teach it… Sometimes I weary of it. I could not live without it. Not in this world. Not in my lifetime.”
C.D. Wright’s contributions to the writing community were vast and powerful: she was a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacArthur Fellow, a Whiting Award winner, and a Lannan Literary Award recipient. In 2013, Wright was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Anne Waldman praised her selection, saying: “Brilliantly astute, generous, witty, panoramic, celebratory, C.D. Wright is one of our most fearless writers, possessed with an urgency that pierces through the darkness of our time.”
Wright made many appearances in the pages of the Arkansas Times over the years and also returned home for appearances at literary festivals and university events. She figured last year in an article about publication of the works of the late Frank Stanford.
There’s much to be said about her work, particularly a chronicle of Louisiana prison life with the photographer Deborah Luster. I’m learning this news late this evening and shocked, as always, at the passing of a contemporary, particularly one who’d been an acquaintance of many years (I knew her first as Carolyn) and who’d shown me great courtesy on a visit a few years ago at Brown University.
Matthew Henriksen, a poet and former student, wrote a longer tribute for Rock Candy this week, with discussions of her work and quotes from other former students.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture has a good listing on Wright. She’d compiled a reader’s map of Arkansas to accompany her “Lost Roads Project: A Walk-in Book of Arkansas.” A new version of that is in progress. It’s a map documenting the state’s great writers from deSoto forward.