CD Wright: “Poetry as white phosphorous.” Credit: John Abromowski / Brown University

C.D. Wright wins high honor: Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize

The Brown professor’s 2008 volume, Rising, Falling, Hovering – which she has described as “my most ferocious work” – is the international winner of the ninth annual award.  
By TAB staff  |  June 4, 2009  |  Email to a friend

TORONTO, June 3  –  Poet C.D. Wright’s 13th poetry collection, Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), has been named the international winner of Canada’s 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize, bestowed by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry. A total of 385 volumes were submitted for the international and Canadian awards categories. Wright’s book was one of four finalists in the international category, marking the second time in six years that her poetry has made the short list.

The Israel J. Kapstein Professor of English at Brown and a former state poet laureate of Rhode Island, Wright was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and has received numerous awards for her poetry, including a 2004 MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Rising represents her passionate response to current events, notably the United State’s relationship with Mexico and the war in Iraq. In an interview last week in the Providence Journal, Wright said, “I would say it is my most ferocious book. … This book was fueled by pain and rage, and trying to reconcile things and making peace within myself.”

The award carries a cash prize of $45,000 – and priceless exposure. In September the Griffin Trust will take the international and Canadian winners to Reykjavik, Iceland, to read at the International Literary Festival.  

“My most ferocious book.” – Wright:   “My most ferocious book.” – Wright In their citation, the Griffin Prize judges said, “Rising, Falling, Hovering reminds us what poetry is for. This is poetry as white phosphorus, written with merciless love and depthless anger, but it is ‘not a chemical weapon, it’s an incendiary … it is for illumination’. … In the long poem that anchors this book, Wright ties together the war in Iraq, the war on the poor, the challenges borders present, and family crises to create a portrait of the human soul riven by separateness.

“How can we react to a poetry this alive with invention and purpose but with joy? C. D. Wright wakes the reader – from dreams of both a perfect world and one drowned in horror – to the saving beauty of clear sight.  Over a long career marked by deep moral engagement and constant reinvention, Wright has placed herself and her readers ‘at a crossroads’, as she writes, which is not just a place, but ‘the very instant you stopped looking for meaning and began rifling among the folds of feeling instead where things were to be made new again.’ ”

Wright has published 12 previous poetry collections. Her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, a journey into the prison-
industrial complex entitled One Big Self, was honored with a Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies. Wright has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation.