“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 prisons—where MacArthur Fellow C.D. Wright served as a “factotum” for a portrait photographer—One 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 things—from 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 Self—originally published as a large-format limited edition that featured photographs and text—was 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.
|Publisher:||Copper Canyon Press|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||648 KB|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.--Jim, 5/16/09