University News

Lit arts professor C.D. Wright dies

Wright remembered by fierce commitment to poetry, "peculiar brilliance in the classroom"

Sports Editor
Thursday, January 14, 2016

Updated Jan. 15 at 10:25 a.m.

Carolyn “C.D.” Wright, professor of English and literary arts, died suddenly Tuesday, according to a press release from her publisher, Copper Canyon Press. The cause of death has not been determined.

The statement maintained that Wright was “fiercely committed to poetry” despite her work in other literary styles. The release commemorated Wright with one of her statements on her creative mission: “I poetry. I write it, study it, read it, edit it, publish it, teach it … I could not live without it. Not in this world. Not in my lifetime.”

Wright moved to Rhode Island in 1983 with her husband, Forrest Gander, who is also a professor of literary arts, as well as comparative literature. In addition to a “peculiar brilliance in the classroom,” as Ben Lerner GS ’03 wrote in an homage to Wright in the New Yorker, Wright garnered much formal recognition for her poetry. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, a Robert Creeley Award and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences before being elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Lerner described her as an “exemplary and inimitable figure” to him and other poets, while poetry critic Joel Brouwer wrote that she “belongs to a school of exactly one.” She was known for her ever-evolving style of poetry, describing her own work as “country but sophisticated … particular and concrete.”

“All of the adjectives that critics use to describe her work are true: brilliant, honest, poignant, funny, experimental, deeply moral and respectful of human life and its struggles,” wrote Melinda Rabb, professor of English.

Wright published over a dozen books over the course of her career, and her most recent work, Shallcross, came out earlier this year.