Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (C. D. Wright Tribute—Issue 62, March 2016)

Brenda Hillman

I have been thinking about certain aspects of C.D. Wright’s technique, how her longer works maintain the brilliant and leisurely but also somehow clipped pacing. I have studied that pacing most in Deepstep Come Shining, a book I have recommended since it came out, and that I think of as a masterful enchantment. Deepstep demonstrates the virtues of modernist braiding in an extended meditative poem, with no apologies for length or oblique references or use of fragmentation/ disjunction or for non sequitur and intonation—all of which most human beings make use of as forms of daily practice. This stunning poetry invites us to think about images for vision itself, how much they infuse our consciousness, about how we live and make meaning first through our senses, about the mysterious hegemony of sight and why that is. There are references to landscapes, to film and filmmakers, especially to Kurasawa, to Shakespeare’s Gloucester, to Wittgenstein’s “abject blindness,” to Newton’s optics, to auras, to inner blindness, and to all of the inspirational strokes of vision on the actual and metaphoric journey (or, as C.D. called it—a “road trip”) an artist might take. In Deepstep, she travels with her artist friend (Deborah Luster) through the Southern countryside, to small towns and cities. There are tossed-off expressions and re-made clichés. An eye for an eye. If thy right eye offend thee. I see your point. And hundreds of other figures for light, including multiple modes of insight and their practitioners (the glory cloud, the Boneman). Other senses come into play, especially hearing. She can sustain a single preposition the way a great jazz musician sustains a single note, caring for it as it grows. The book remakes the production of image and illusion in daily life and in the life of an artist. It recommends being in the process without advance design or as a mysterious plan is revealed in the process. She redefines color to include its opposites and redefines abstraction to include particulars. The incantatory weaving can show all writers how it is done, to make every page alive, to redefine beauty according to an individual vision. What is true of this much-loved book is true of all of C.D.’s work: its pull is cumulative, yet every page yields so much in itself. We talked about our writing struggles a lot, comparing notes about how to solve issues, and I long for more of those conversations now. Since she died, I’ve wished that we could tell our beloved writers each and every day why we love their work, and how very much it matters to us that they do what they do, whether they work with a lot of recognition or with a little recognition or in abject obscurity. Of course there isn’t time to do this, but it’s a wish.