Casting Deep Shade: An Amble

Casting Deep Shade: An Amble

by C. D. Wright


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“C.D. Wright belongs to a school of exactly one.” —The New York Times

“C.D. Wright has been writing some of the greatest poetry-cum-prose you can find in American literature.” —Dave Eggers

Casting Deep Shade is a passionate, poetic exploration of humanity’s shared history with the beech tree. Before Wright’s unexpected death in 2016, she was deeply engaged in years of ambling research to better know this tree—she visited hundreds of beech trees, interviewed arborists, and delved into the etymology, folk lore, and American history of the species. Written in Wright’s singular prosimetric style, this “memoir with beech trees” demonstrates the power of words to conserve, preserve, and bear witness.

Honoring Wright’s lifelong fascination with books as objects, this final work is a three-panel hardcover that encloses the body of text, illustrated with striking color photographs of beech trees by artist Denny Moers.

George and Nannette Herrick allowed me to watch their best-loved beech be brought to the ground. Mrs. Herrick said her grandson was going to be so mad when he came to town to find his favorite climber gone. Mrs. Herrick wanted the tree cut to the grass. She did not want the stump to linger as a reminder.

Born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, C. D. Wright has received numerous honors for her poetry, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. Wright taught at Brown University for over thirty years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595486
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 02/12/2019
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 108,927
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, C.D. Wright has received numerous honors for her fifteen-plus collections of poetry, including the National Book Critics Circle Award (2010). Wright taught at Brown University for over thirty years until she passed away in 2016.

Read an Excerpt


Water for oxygen, oxygen for water, oxygen and water for pore space in the soil.

If New York is our nerve center for competition
Los Angeles is the slacker
Then there are the Ozarks of Arkansas birthplace of Walmart
(4000 stores in the US, 2000 in Mexico alone)
The triumph was Teotihuacan
City of the Gods built in the shadow of the Pyramid of the Moon & the Pyramid of the Sun,
a Supercenter,
the Temple of Sam in the middle of Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field backed by bribes to change the zoning
Competition the Walmart way
Don’t blame it on the Mexicanos
No arruinar las ruinas was the cry in the calles
Where have all the one-person stalls and pepper trees
(Shinus molle) of the wide valley gone ask the Sons of Sam


A tree can only take so many insults. Esp when geriatric and distressed.

Commonly a tree dies of hunger or thirst. As did my mother, as a result of


A couple noticed a problem with their beeches on their land in Harbor Springs, MI, two years ago:

We’ll be in bed sometimes, and we’ll just hear: Whooomp!

Jojoba oil is used for aphids. If it comes to that. Replaced sperm oil from whales and is used against mildew. Being used copiously in fact. As whale sperm once was.

There is always picking them off one by one.

Parasitic wasps attack aphids.

As do ladybugs, the one bug nobody can deny. A ladybug will devour thousands of aphids in its itsy busy bitsy life.

(Keep refrigerated until use.)


Trees live long lives. Anything can happen. Come ice or wind or fire, or human disturbance, the effects are broad and dragged out.

Out of angiosperms, oak, beech, elms, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 120 million years ago.

Mast from F. grandifolia may be the most important food source for Ursus americana, the American black bear. It would take a lot of nuts to stuff a hungry bear. Esp way up north where the woods are dominated by spruce.

Did you know that the leaf of F. grandifolia produces the most nitrogen of all the trees in North America.

As a nitrogen sink in the soil however, their mortality rate impacts the nitrogen cycle.

Under their abundant canopy, scant sky.


Long long ago they were all over Antarctica.

And America with its own genus.

The young ones need care. The old

generally prefer to be undisturbed.

Sometimes they are so tall and straight

and smooth they look like nothing

so much as columns of limestone.


The ashes of poet Robert Creeley (1926-2005) are buried under a beech at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA:

Look at the light of this hour

The word trimmed back to the last fore-bearing leaf. Onward, Bob.

(When I dispatched photographer Denny Moers to get a shot of Creeley’s tree, his tripod fell over on the poet’s stone, breaking the back plate of his camera. After he uncovered the broken part in the mast, he rushed back to his car to see if he had something–masking tape, band-aide or rubber band he could use to secure the plate and finish his shoot in the vanishing light. He found only a pack of old condoms. Wrapped one around the camera, took aim and called it a day. Safe to say, Bob would have liked that. His widow Penelope told Denny that Bob & Co had chugged over the Pyrenees by pissing into the gas tank.)


One claim to the invention of movable type belongs to Laurens Janszoon Coster between 1423 and 1440. Recently, the title has shifted back to Gutenberg.

Coster was alleged to have cut letters out of beechwood for children. Wrapping them in parchment, the letters left impressions on the parchment giving him the idea of moveable type. Historians now argue there was no such man as Laurens Janszoon Coster, leaving the proud citizens of Haarlem bereft.

No one is disputing that the beech played an inspirational role.

For cathedrals as well.


Toronto, June 3, 2014:

(I must first acknowledge the 36th anniversary of the death of poet Frank Stanford. As a land surveyor he took a chainsaw to many a tree in the dense woods of the Ozarks. His friend Willett would often be furious with him if he didn’t know what he was taking down before revving up). But jogging in the park, at my sluggish tempo, near the hotel, I slammed smack dab into a pretty copper. I wanted to pluck just one leaf (I am an addicted plucker, self-limiting to one leaf). The one I happened to flip over was wall-to-wall with the beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator). Their sole self-defense is to raise their hind ends and sway in unison. Little fuckers.*

In Toronto, I met a physically vulnerable, emotionally spirited English poet with a rare, agonizing disease, developed from collodion ichthyosis. When drugs offered no relief or necessitated tapering off, NATURE, she vowed (in all caps), was the only healer. Afflicted since birth, she recalled suffering greatly one day as a child, going outside and lying down on her back in the grass. When she stood up she beheld a glimmer of blue silhouetting her body that quickly dematerialized. She ran inside to tell her parents, who were watching the telly, and they told her not to worry about it. The phenomenon never recurred, but lying down next to the earth continued to soothe her. It was not enough to sit in the shade on a bench. Total physical contact was essential to receive the succor offered.

I would lie in the duff of a fern leaf in Warren, RI, were distress, mental or physical, to guide me there.

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