Originally released in 2003 as an expensive, limited-edition art book featuring photographs by Deborah Luster, Wright's poetic book-length meditation and report on life in three Louisiana prisons is now widely available for the first time. To portray the lives of those she met when she and Luster visited these prisons, Wright's method is accretion, her form the list. Registering a bevy of voices, from the poem's own twangy consciousness ("The redhead here is a photographer and I'm her humble factotum") to prisoners' hopeless missives, Wright (Steal Away) attempts to report what she sees, like a journalist telling it slant. She includes stock-takings of things brought in from outside ("Count your blessings// Count your stars (lucky or not)// Count your loose change"), haunting prison factoids ("Tennessee's retired chair available on eBay"), possible quotes from prisoners ("I've always had the willies") and poetic advice ("Remember the almighty finger on the wrong-answer button"). Piled one atop another, these verbal shards create a harrowing vamp that is as much a compassionate portrayal of prison life as it is about the fragmentary way anyone comes to know anyone else. Wright gets better with each book, expanding the reach of her art; it seems it could take in anything. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
One Big Selfby C. D. Wright
"For a long while now, C. D. Wright has been writing some of the greatest poetry-cum-prose you can find in American literature. One Big Self does to the contemporary prison-industrial complex what James Agee did to poverty it reacts passionately and lyrically (and idiosyncratically) to a sociopolitical abomination. This book, while angry and sorrowful/i>
"For a long while now, C. D. Wright has been writing some of the greatest poetry-cum-prose you can find in American literature. One Big Self does to the contemporary prison-industrial complex what James Agee did to poverty it reacts passionately and lyrically (and idiosyncratically) to a sociopolitical abomination. This book, while angry and sorrowful and bewildered, has humor, constant levity and candor, and countless moments of incredible beauty." Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
“Wright has found a way to wed fragments of an iconic America to a luminously strange idiom, eerie as a tin whistle, which she uses to evoke the haunted quality of our carnal existence.”The New Yorker
Inspired by numerous visits inside Louisiana state prisonswhere MacArthur Fellow C.D. Wright served as a “factotum” for a portrait photographerOne Big Self bears witness to incarcerated men and women and speaks to the psychic toll of protracted time passed in constricted space. It is a riveting mosaic of distinct voices, epistolary pieces, elements from a moralistic board game, road signage, prison data, inmate correspondence, and “counts” of thingsfrom baby’s teeth to chigger bites:
Count your folding money
Count the times you said you wouldn’t go back
Count your debts
Count the roaches when the light comes on
Count your kids after the housefire
One Big Selforiginally published as a large-format limited edition that featured photographs and textwas selected by The New York Times and The Village Voice as a notable book of the year. This edition features the poem exclusively.
C.D. Wright is the author of ten books of poetry, including several collaborations with photographer Deborah Luster. She is a professor at Brown University.
- Copper Canyon Press
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Meet the Author
C.D. Wright, a Professor of English at Brown University, is the author of eleven books of poetry, as well as several collaborative works with photographer Deborah Luster, most recently One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana. She has earned fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim foundations, and is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award. She lives in Rhode Island.
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