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At Boston Review: Laynie Browne Writes to C. D. Wright

By Harriet Staff

CD Wright

At Boston Review, Laynie Browne offers a lyric remembrance of and for C. D. Wright, whose recent passing has shocked and saddened the poetry community. In “Lilies,” Browne begins in meditation on Wright’s title Translation of the Gospel Back into Tongues, a collection of 35 poems published in 1983 that Stephen Burt once recalled (also at BR) was self-described by Wright in her next book, Further Adventures with You, as “a lamentation for the late Frank Stanford, poet from Arkansas.” “[A] full description of Wright’s achievement ought to show both her big changes of style and the way each of her books of poetry gets answered by the next,” wrote Burt in 1997.

Returning to the present, here is an excerpt from Browne’s letter to Wright, composed in her head:

I remember you writing lists, sweeping your kitchen, standing on the hillside outside your home, discussing a window hung mid-room in the space separating your desk from the rest of the room (a close consolation to a room of one’s own). I saw you invent space where no space existed. I see you now, talking to me amid piles of books and notes, wrapped in a telephone cord in your basement, as Brecht (then a toddler) playfully entangles your legs. You are paying attention to everything at the same time. You aren’t missing any of it.

Simultaneously you are explaining or expounding upon limits, incapacity, what still must be done. You are roving and working, endlessly considering what next, what else must be attended. I remember your advice on mothering and writing and your encouragement of me as a young mother and writer in a time when none of my peers had yet become mothers. I thought we had time ahead of us, as well as time behind us. If only I could increase and redistribute some of that time. My mind keeps wanting to ask how to make such a future possible. I am left with the impossibility of translating the past into the future, and yet by your example I know many things that seem impossible may be imagined and then manifested.

This writing is a first tributary—an homage, tears on paper, salt marks to meld a map ahead. There is more, so much more to say for you, to you, and from you. I want to meditate especially on your persistence and your willingness to go boldly to places that do not yet exist, your insistence on being various, real, and continually new.

How I wish I had sent the letter I was writing in my head on the day it began to emerge. And yet we are all writing in the words given to us from others. And in this ongoing exchange I assume my concentration has been received. All writing is in proximity and in relation…

Please find the full piece, including poetry from Browne much due to Wright, at Boston Review.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, February 15th, 2016 by Harriet Staff.