C. D. Wright takes her title from a line of legal defense, peculiar to Texas courts, in which it is held that if a man kills before having had time “to cool” after receiving an injury or an insult he is not guilty of murder.
Cooling Time is a new type of book, an unruly vigil that is an interconnected memoir-poem-essay about contemporary American poetry. Ever focused on possibilities, Wright demonstrates that “the search for models becomes a search for alternatives,” and thereby defines the terms by which poets can chart their own course.
These are some of the things I have touched in my life that are forbidden: paintings behind velvet ropes, electric fencing, a vault in an office, gun in a drawer, my brother’s folding money, the poet’s anus, the black holes in his heart—where his life went out of him.
Tell me, what is the long stretch of road for if not to sort out the reasons why we are here and why we do what we do, from why we are not in the other lane doing what others do.
Poetry is like food remarked one of my first teachers, freeing me to dislike Rocky Mountain Oysters and Robert Lowell. The menu is vast, the list of things I don’t want in my mouth relatively short.
C.D. Wright, author of nine books of poetry, teaches at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with poet Forrest Gander.
A determined and idiosyncratic book of critical thoughts and not a "poet's memoir" la Nick Flynn or Katy Lederer Wright's latest offers criticism, speculation, and personal recollection, most of it divided into self-sufficient prose units, from one sentence to several pages in length. Though she teaches at Brown University in Rhode Island, Wright, who won a MacArthur genius grant this year, hails from the Ozarks, as both her matter and manner often remind us: "I poetry... I also arkansas," she writes; "sometimes these verbs coalesce. Sometimes they trot off in opposite directions." Though some paragraphs, many of which are culled from previously published essays, offer sharply remembered scenes, Wright (Steal Away) focuses less on the major events in her life than on the writers whose work has mattered to her, some famous (Gertrude Stein), some not (Besmilr Brigham). Readers in the know will decode information about Wright's poet-partner Forrest Gander. The longest memoiristic passage concerns an English teacher; another pokes fun at American poets' habit of joining rival schools, and another describes a car trip through the American Southeast, with its "Landscape of big dogs, big melons, big-car longings and dreams big as distant capitals." Readers who seek not autobiography but cogent thoughts, ideas, quotable claims about the state of the art (or about the state of Arkansas) will find themselves delighted.