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Steal Away: Selected and New Poems

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Overview

Now in paperback, Steal Away presents C.D. Wright’s best lyrics, narratives, prose poems, and odes with new "retablos" and a bracing vigil on incarceration. Long admired as a fearless poet writing authentically erotic verse, Wright—with her Southern accent and cinematic eye—couples strangeness with uncanny accuracy to create poems that "offer a once-and-for-all thing, opaque and revelatory, ceaselessly ...

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Steal Away: Selected and New Poems

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Overview

Now in paperback, Steal Away presents C.D. Wright’s best lyrics, narratives, prose poems, and odes with new "retablos" and a bracing vigil on incarceration. Long admired as a fearless poet writing authentically erotic verse, Wright—with her Southern accent and cinematic eye—couples strangeness with uncanny accuracy to create poems that "offer a once-and-for-all thing, opaque and revelatory, ceaselessly burning."

from "Our Dust"

You didn’t know my weariness, error, incapacity,
I was the poet of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch phone books, of failed roadside zoos. The poet of yard eggs and sharpening shops,
jobs at the weapons plant and the Maybelline factory on the penitentiary road.

"Wright has found a way to wed fragments of an iconic America to a luminously strange idiom, eerie as a tin whistle."—The New Yorker

"Wright shrinks back from nothing."—Voice Literary Supplement

"C.D. Wright is a devastating visionary. She writes in light. She sets language on fire."—American Letters

C.D. Wright has published nine collections of poetry and earned many awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches at Brown University and in 1994 was named State Poet of Rhode Island. With her husband, Forrest Gander, she edits Lost Roads Publishers.

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Editorial Reviews

Rochelle Ratner
In her tenth volume, Wright proves herself to be one of the most complex, fascinating and ultimately rewarding American poets writing today. Over a 20-year period, she chronicles her journey from a poor Deep South childhood (in an essay, she once compared Arkansas to South Africa) to respected New England professor, from "a girl on the stairs [who] listens to her father/ beat up her mother" (from her 1982 collection, Translating the Gospel Back into Tongues) to the strong and empowering "girl friend" poems new in this collection. Always distinguishing between I and Thou, she identifies with the victim without becoming victimized herself. Even in the sadomasochistic prose poems of Just Whistle (1993), the body takes on a distinct and defiant life of its own, an Other standing apart from the narrator. For her, it seems a natural step from Southern down-home dialect (at least as her writer's ear perceived it) to the experiments with non-syntactical language that put her in the forefront of experimental poetry. Not only do her poems explore uncharted ground in both subject and form, each new volume seems to take new risks. If this book has any pitfalls, it's that there's not enough space to include more poems from each volume. Highly recommended.
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
Raised in remote Arkansas, Wright fell in when quite young with the charismatic and legendary poet Frank Stanford, whose neo-surrealist techniques - and sudden death - inform her earliest work, included in this seventh full-length book, her first selected. Soon, however, Wright had many other forms and models - from Adrienne Rich to Edmond Jabès, from philosophical investigations to yearbook signatures and personal ads. Together and separately, these techniques produced the striking power and variety of String Light (1991), which declared Wright "the poet/ of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch/ phone books," "of yard eggs and/ sharpening shops" and of sex and female physicality, for whom "the body would open its legs like a book." Tremble (1996) confirmed these strengths and added a durable visionary dimension: "As surely as there are crumbs on the lips/ of the blind," one poem began, "I came for a reason." This collection draws liberally on those volumes, as well as the book-length Southern travelogue-cum-prose-poem Deepstep Come Shining (1998), and adds new sets of short poems. Some derive from Mexican retablos (folk-art altarpieces), which they imagine in strenuous, broken-up lines; a final series considers, and sometimes addresses, the incarcerated: "I too love. Faces. Hands. The circumference/ Of the oaks. I confess. To nothing/ You could use. In a court of law." Multicultural (with a Southern orientation) and experimental, challenging and immediately appealing, Wright has a core of fans but could have many more: this book's careful selection from a strong body of works should ensure that they find her.
The New Yorker
It sometimes seems misleading to call Wright a poet; as her latest volume of poems makes clear, she is a chronicler of the travails that take place "between midnight and Reno," deeply interested in the social realities of America's poor and restless and in "towns with quarter-inch / phone books." Her appetite for digging up what she calls "protected and private things" results in poems about everything from sexual longing to America's incarceration system, but they are always alive to simple physical pleasures, like a trip to a twenty-four-hour supermarket. 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 paradox that the body is the source of language, and yet language outlasts our bodies.
Library Journal
In her tenth volume, Wright proves herself to be one of the most complex, fascinating, and ultimately rewarding American poets writing today. Over a 20-year period, she chronicles her journey from a poor Deep South childhood (in an essay, she once compared Arkansas to South Africa) to respected New England professor, from "a girl on the stairs [who] listens to her father/ beat up her mother" (from her 1982 collection, Translating the Gospel Back into Tongues) to the strong and empowering "girl friend" poems new in this collection. Always distinguishing between I and Thou, she identifies with the victim without becoming victimized herself. Even in the sadomasochistic prose poems of Just Whistle (1993), the body takes on a distinct and defiant life of its own, an Other standing apart from the narrator. For her, it seems a natural step from Southern down-home dialect (at least as her writer's ear perceived it) to the experiments with nonsyntactical language that put her in the forefront of experimental poetry. Not only do her poems explore uncharted ground in both subject and form, each new volume seems to take new risks. If this book has any pitfalls, it's that there's not enough space to include more poems from each volume. Highly recommended. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591945
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 794,505
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt

What Keeps
We live on a hillside
close to water
We eat in darkness
We sleep in the coldest
part of the house
We love in silence
We keep our poetry
locked in a glass cabinet
Some nights We stay up
passing it back and
forth
between us
drinking deep

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Table of Contents

Rosesucker Retablo #1 14
Rosesucker Retablo #2 15
Rosesucker Retablo #3 16
Alla Breve Loving 20
The Secret Life of Musical Instruments 21
Bent Tones 22
Tours 23
Blazes 24
Libretto 25
Clockmaker with Bad Eyes 26
Obedience of the Corpse 27
The night before the sentence is carried out 28
Vanish 29
Wanderer in His Thirtieth Year 30
Handfishing Retablo #1 34
Handfishing Retablo #2 35
Handfishing Retablo #3 36
Handfishing Retablo #4 37
Wages of Love 40
Provinces 41
Treatment 42
The Cinematographer's Faro Island Log 44
Hotels 45
Elements of Night 46
Lapse 47
Scratch Music 48
Illuminations 49
This Couple 50
Petition for Replenishment 51
Two Hearts in a Forest 52
Further Adventures with You 54
Floating Lady Retablo #1 58
Floating Lady Retablo #2 59
Floating Lady Retablo #3 60
King's Daughters, Home for Unwed Mothers, 1948 64
More Blues and the Abstract Truth 66
Remarks on Color 68
The Night I Met Little Floyd 70
Why Ralph Refuses to Dance 72
Our Dust 73
Humidity 75
The Body's Temperature at Rest 76
Personals 78
Planks 79
Utopia 80
Toward the Woods 81
What No One Could Have Told Them 83
Detail from What No One Could Have Told Them 85
Old Man with a Dog 85
Living 87
Weekend in the Country 90
The Next to Last Draft 92
Self Portrait on a Rocky Mount 93
The Ozark Odes 94
a valentine 101
Floating Trees 148
Approximately Forever 150
So Far Off and Yet Here 151
Like Peaches 152
With Grass as Their Witness 153
Because Fulfillment Awaits 154
Autographs 155
And It Came to Pass 157
Girl Friend 158
Sonic Relations 159
Various Positions 161
The Shepherd of Resumed Desire 162
Oneness 163
Gift of the Book 164
Girl Friend Poem #2 165
A Series of Actions 166
Song of the Gourd 167
Lake Echo, Dear 168
On the Beach 169
What Keeps 170
Key Episodes from an Earthly Life 171
Girl Friend Poem #3 172
In a Piercing and Sucking Species 173
Crescent 174
Everything Good between Men and Women 175
Girl Friend Poem #4 176
The Iris Admits the Light the Iris Will Allow 177
Like Someone Driving to Texas by Herself 178
Morning Star 179
Like Rocks 180
Privacy 181
Girl Friend Poem #5 182
Ponds, in Love 183
Like Horses 184
Flame 185
Girl Friend Poem #6 186
Girl Friends #7-10 189
from Deepstep Come Shining 195
Prisoners of Louisiana 211
Index 229
About the Author 235
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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Hollingsworth Review of Steal Away

    Review of Steal Away by Mighael on October 27, 2011, Hollingsworth
    Carolyn "C.D." Wright is an amazing poet and she has produced many wonderful poems throughout this book. Each of her poems is very creative and has a deep overall meaning that grabs the reader's attention. Her inviolable lyrics were inspired by her creative mind and the mountainous surroundings she had grown to love in Arkansas. Her poem "Tours", one of my favorites, talks about a girl witnessing her mother being abused. Carolyn used her words beautifully and had a deep meaning when she finished it off saying "Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been." That was so inspiration and was saying that most people keep quiet when they witness things like those. Even though I'm struggling to interpret the poems, I still am engaged in every word my eyes come across.
    This book of poems range to various topics anywhere from: death, to abusive relationships, to love. This Fiction masterpiece is definitely entertaining and it was very informative for me. I am a young learning poet and this increased my knowledge tremendously and influenced many new ideas. I certainly would recommend this book to anyone, but especially aspiring poets. I loved this book a lot and I am going to follow up on C.D. Wright's other books also, because she is a brilliant poet.

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