One Big Self: An Investigation

C. D. Wright, Author, CD Wright, Author . Copper Canyon $15 (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-258-4

Originally released in 2003 as an expensive, limited-edition art book featuring photographs by Deborah Luster, Wright's poetic book-length meditation and report on life in three Louisiana prisons is now widely available for the first time. To portray the lives of those she met when she and Luster visited these prisons, Wright's method is accretion, her form the list. Registering a bevy of voices, from the poem's own twangy consciousness ("The redhead here is a photographer and I'm her humble factotum") to prisoners' hopeless missives, Wright (Steal Away ) attempts to report what she sees, like a journalist telling it slant. She includes stock-takings of things brought in from outside ("Count your blessings// Count your stars (lucky or not)// Count your loose change"), haunting prison factoids ("Tennessee's retired chair available on eBay"), possible quotes from prisoners ("I've always had the willies") and poetic advice ("Remember the almighty finger on the wrong-answer button"). Piled one atop another, these verbal shards create a harrowing vamp that is as much a compassionate portrayal of prison life as it is about the fragmentary way anyone comes to know anyone else. Wright gets better with each book, expanding the reach of her art; it seems it could take in anything. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/26/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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