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.