STEAL AWAY: Selected and New Poems
Raised in remote Arkansas, Wright fell in when quite young with the charismatic and legendary poet Frank Stanford, whose neosurrealist techniques—and sudden death—inform her earliest work, included in this seventh full-length book, her first selected. Soon, however, Wright had many other forms and models—from Adrienne Rich to Edmond Jabès, from philosophical investigations to yearbook signatures and personal ads. Together and separately, these techniques produced the striking power and variety of String Light (1991), which declared Wright "the poet/ of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch/ phone books," "of yard eggs and/ sharpening shops" and of sex and female physicality, for whom "the body would open its legs like a book." Tremble (1996) confirmed these strengths and added a durable visionary dimension: "As surely as there are crumbs on the lips/ of the blind," one poem began, "I came for a reason." This collection draws liberally on those volumes, as well as the book-length Southern travelogue-cum-prose-poem Deepstep Come Shining (1998), and adds new sets of short poems. Some derive from Mexican retablos (folk-art altarpieces), which they imagine in strenuous, broken-up lines; a final series considers, and sometimes addresses, the incarcerated: "I too love. Faces. Hands. The circumference/ Of the oaks. I confess. To nothing/ You could use. In a court of law." Multicultural (with a Southern orientation) and experimental, challenging and immediately appealing, Wright has a core of fans but could have many more: this book's careful selection from a strong body of work should ensure that they find her. (May)
Forecast:Wright's trade press Tremble—a would-be breakthrough—dropped from sight soon after publication as Ecco reconfigured. Through her teaching at Brown University and co-editorship, with Forrest Gander, of Lost Roads press, Wright is already an influence on younger poets; one national review might open up an audience among less regular readers of poetry.
Release date: 05/01/2002