Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Big Self: An Investigation by C.D. Wright

I met C.D. Wright at the recent Beall Poetry Festival at Baylor University. I bought this book because Copper Canyon Press published it, and they maintain high quality in the printing and selection of poetry. My first look at this book was disappointing. I thought a collection of random sayings, thoughts, and images from three prisons in Louisiana would not appeal to me. Today is a lazy, rainy Saturday, and the arthritis throbs in my knee, so I decided to read it. I am glad I did.

My taste for poetry usually runs as follows: short, structured (at least a little), and with a tendency toward the humorous. This long poem had none of these characteristics. Nonetheless, I found it absorbing and thought provoking. Wright’s aim was to match personalities and desires of the men and women in these three prisons. She has done a marvelous job.

Once I started reading, I could not stop – except for the occasional pause to re-read a line or two that deserved an extra moment of savoring. This really is poetry at it best – the collection of images, the words from the inmates, the signs on the walls, all came together to draw the reader inside. A sense of claustrophobia and the relentless monotony of their lives came out in Wright’s words. The next item on the agenda is to try and find Deborah Luster’s book of photos from the trip Wright made with her to visit these prisons. One Big Self wants me to read more of Wright’s work. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 5/16/09

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