C. D. Wright: A Tribute

On January 12, 2016, C. D. Wright died unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of sixty-seven. At the time, C. D. was serving on our Board of Chancellors, an honorary body of esteemed poets that has included W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Mark Strand, and many other poets who have helped define the art of poetry in the United States. During her tenure, C. D. contributed greatly to our organization. She advocated for our having an open mind about the poets we supported—more often than not, advocating for young poets. And, she played an important role on our Poets Emergency Fund committee, making sure we were sending financial assistance to poets in crisis and need. Her humor, generosity of spirit, and fiercely brilliant artistry will have a lasting impact on all of us. 

In tribute to C. D. and the many lives she touched in the poetry community—including her fellow Chancellors' and ours—we've gathered a selection of photographs, poems, essays, and tributes by those who knew her.


Imaginary Morning Glory

Whether or not the water was freezing. The body

would break its sheathe. Without layer on layer

of feather and air to insulate the loving belly.

A cloudy film surrounding the point of entry. If blue

were not blue how could love be love. But if the body

were made of rings. A loose halo would emerge

in the telluric light. If anyone were entrusted to verify

this rare occurrence. As the petal starts to

dwindle and curl unto itself. And only then. Love,

blue. Hallucinogenic blue, love.

C. D. Wright


“beautiful things fill every vacancy”

                                  for C. D. Wright

         filaments of her gift
persistent mysteries
     palpable consciousness
a world of naming
    of ablutions in time
        fighter instinct
action, the pressing in,
        closing in
            heart thrums
for a powerful image
       dazzling light:
       to reassess language, 
its tactility
   emotion, lyric, oblique 
irony twists, shifts by
   pulse & ear, resilient
her consummate body poetics
    echo into night
it hits us what is now absent
    from every bouquet
cut like flowers before their time
Anne Waldman

Obscurity and Elegance

Whether or not the park was safe

she was going in. A study concluded, for a park

to be successful there had to be women.

The man next to the monument must have broken

away from her. Perhaps years

before. That the bond had been carnal is obvious.

He said he was just out clearing his head.

They followed the walk of pollarded pears. His tone

distant but not disinterested. It was

an expensive suit, she could tell by the cut.

His face blocked by the felted hat. The cocked night

studded with satellites. Women

were known not to enter a park

if they smelled urine. They passed under the arch

together. At this point, he allowed, it

would be fine by him if he could sit at his desk

and watch his writing happen.

C. D. Wright

from One With Others

     People study the dingy chenille clouds for a sign.


     People did what they have done.


     A town, a time, and a woman who lived there.


     And left undone what they ought not to have did.




     I take one more drive across town thinking about the retired welding teacher easing over that rise seeing the parking lot full of white men. I wonder if he thought he would die in the jungle [where no Vietcong ever called him [N-word]  ] or he would die in front of the bowling alley [without ever having been inside] or die in the swimming pool [without ever having been in it, except when drained, and the police had him in their sights]. Or if, because he was a young man, he would never die. I attach V to my driving-around thoughts.


     An object unworthy of love she thought she was.


     It was a cri de coeur.


     Those of our get had given her a nom de guerre: V.


     A simple act, to join a march against fear

     down an old military road.


     We were watching an old movie the night


     the table started walking toward us


     and there was trouble on Division.


     She became a disaffiliated member [of her race].


     I'm one of them now, she said, upon release


     from jail. I am an invader.




     Look into the dark heart and you will see what the dark eats other than your heart.


     The world is not ineluctably finished


     though the watchfires have been doused


     more walls have come down


     more walls are being built


     Sound of the future, uncanny how close


     to the sound of the old


     At Daddy's Eyes


     "Pusherman" still on the jukebox


     Everybody's past redacted




                                                                                   For me


     it has always been a series of doors:


     if one is opened precipitously a figure is caught bolting from bed


     if another, a small table, a list of demands on school paper


     if another, a child on the linoleum, saying she wants a white doll


     a woman sitting on a bed, holding a folded flag


     a shelf of trophies behind her head


     an ironing board, bottle of bourbon on the end


     sewing machine on a porch


     To walk down the road without fear


     To sit in a booth and order a sweet soft drink


     To work at the front desk


     To be referred to as Gentleman


     To swim in the pool


     To sit in the front row and watch Run Wild, Run Free [next week: Death of a Gunfighter]


     To make your way to the end of the day with both eyes in your head


     Nothing is not integral


     You want to illumine what you see


     Fear reflected off an upturned face


     Those walnuts turning black in the grass


     It is a relatively stable world


     Gentle Reader


     But beyond that door


     It defies description

C. D. Wright