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Thursday, March 10, 2011
92Y Video: C. D. Wright Reads From “One With Others”

The National Book Critics Circle Awards took place last night with numerous nominations and awards going to guests and faculty of the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center. Congratulations to all nominees, including C. D. Wright who won in Poetry for One With Others. Darin Strauss, teacher in the Unterberg Poetry Center Writing Program, won in Autobiography and Clare Cavanagh, award winner in Criticism, will be here next month.

C. D. Wright was here last week reading from One With Others. Before Ms. Wright’s reading at 92Y Poetry Center last week, fellow poet Ben Lerner had this to say by way of introduction:

One with Others braids research, reminiscence, and reportage with ode and elegy. It is a book that celebrates Mrs. V, an Arkansan autodidact and mentor of C. D.’s who was the lone white citizen in her small town to stand with Sweet Willie Wine and a group of African-American men when they marched for their rights in 1969. The book is a choral, collaged history of that explosive moment (which is still, in many ways, our moment) and Mrs. V’s act of courage, which made her a pariah. It is also a polyphonic portrait of Mrs. V as teacher of literature, sage, and wit—a woman whose fierce intelligence and independence helped C. D. develop into an American poet now singularly capable of taking the measure of such a redoubtable personality. The ultimate homage to Mrs. V is thus the immense formal accomplishment of the book itself. It is the work of a writer who has refused to settle into a manner, who has sharpened an array of poetic techniques through experiment without abandoning a subject, but who never forgets that language refracts what it aspires to represent and that the poet is implicated in her poetic anthropology.

My guess is that all this would make Mrs. V proud. Regardless, it’s what makes C. D. an exemplary and inimitable figure for the rest of us. And I mean to emphasize the tension between “exemplary” and “inimitable”—what her example teaches is the necessity of going your own way, of being one with others.

Other nominees and award-winners who have been guests at 92Y include Jonathan Franzen, here last November, David Grossman, here in 2008, Terrance Hayes, here in April 2010 and Patti Smith, who was here just a few weeks ago.

Related: Ever wonder how the National Book Critics Circle picks the winning books? The president of the organization, Jane Ciabattari, explains how the process works. [The Daily Beast]

Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.

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