Arts and Entertainment | Books

Wright Markets Poetry For the Consumer Mind

How does poetry keep on keeping on?

This is what award-winning poet CD Wright will discuss for the Creative Writing Lecture Series at the School of the Arts on Thursday. Her lecture, “Concerning Why Poetry Offers a Better Deal than the World’s Biggest Retailer,” explores the position of poetry within the public discourse, as an artistic force in the commercial and social environment in which we now live.

Wright—the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and the Robert Creeley Award, and the former co-owner of Lost Roads Publishers—has taught literary arts courses, writing workshops, and seminars at Brown University for over 25 years. She grew up in the Arkansas Ozarks and lived in New York, San Francisco, and Mexico before finally settling in Rhode Island with her husband, fellow poet Forrest Gander.

Her move around the country and exposure to different environments—and different writers—was a formative experience for Wright’s literary career. “If nothing else, it’s where I found my ethos, if not my aesthetic,” she said.

This experience was channeled into two of her most eclectic projects, which are reminiscent of popular American literary forms of the 1930s: “literary maps,” or readers’ maps, of both Rhode Island and Arkansas.

Indeed, many of Wright’s more recent projects have transcended neatly categorical genres. She began as an essayist and poet, and regards poetry as her literary home to which she returns time and time again. Her most recent collections, “Rising, Falling, Hovering” and “Like Something Flying Backwards, New and Selected Poems,” were released in 2008 and 2007, respectively. However, Wright said that fascinating possibilities can come from “creating an environment with a literary text at its core” and “writing that doesn’t confine itself to one genre.”

Wright has collaborated with artists working within various mediums, including New Orleans-based photographer Deborah Luster. The two created a Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize-winning work entitled “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” as well as “Deep Step Come Shining,”a book based on the artists’ road trip to explore the dreams of the blind. Another collaboration, “The Lost Roads Project,” combined the work of many different artists to create a holistic touring exhibition showcasing the literary history of Arkansas.

Beyond “the forces in which poetry has to invest itself and sustain its influence in today’s society,” Wright’s lecture will address how poets can more actively engage in public artistic dialogue and what function poetry can serve in that contemporary dialogue. Wright is particularly interested, however, in what work students are currently doing, absorbing, creating, reading, and exploring, as well as in trying to get students to see “that they can kick out enough space to do what they want to do.”

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