Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
The two poems C. D. Wright read in the Friday Afternoon Sampler at the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival, “Lake Echo, Dear” and “Like Something Christenberry Pictured,” serve as an excellent introduction to her poetry.
Perhaps the first question in “Lake Echo, Dear” could also be read as an expression of Wright’s major concern for poetry as both a reader and writer: How often do we actively read, and how often is our engagement not much deeper than looking at the page?
Wright’s poems expand this question to include: How often is what passes for perception and understanding genuine, and how often are we merely going through the motions?
Wright never takes anything for granted. But her questioning is not an intellectual exercise. Her refusal to abide the glib, the ironic, the facile or the merely sentimental stems from her dedication to poetry’s potential. She demands more of herself than she does of any reader.
It is telling that Wright alludes to the artist William Christenberry. Among his most famous pieces are a series of sculptures based on his own photographs of homes in one of the more poverty stricken areas of the rural South. This is a region Wright knows well from her own childhood. Christenberry’s sculptures have what can only be described as a photographic realism. Their effect on the viewer is often deeply moving.
Both “Lake Echo, Dear” and “Like Something Christenberry Pictured” have a similar almost photographic realism. As the details build, we know we are in the presence of something made by a deliberate and careful artist. The cumulative effect, when we reach the closing lines of both poems, is to feel Wright has led us someplace we couldn’t have arrived at by any other means. “And this feels painfully beautiful/ whether or not/ it will change the world one drop.”
“Lake Echo, Dear” can be found in Steal Away: Selected and New Poems. “Like Something Christenberry Pictured” appears in Wright’s most recent collection, Rising, Falling, Hovering. Visit the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival Poet Pages for a biography of C. D. Wright.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Franz Wright, Simon Armitage, Patricia Smith and others.