One with Others

C.D. Wright, Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $20 (160p) ISBN 978-1-55659-324-6
In 1969, a Tennessean known as “Sweet Willie Wine” led a small group of African-American men on a “walk against fear” through smalltown Arkansas. This event grounds Wright’s most recent blending of poetry and investigative journalism. A tribute to Wright’s mentor “V”—an autodidact, activist, and bourbon-swilling mother of eight, whose support for the march (“I would have followed Sweet Willie Wine into hell”) made her “a disaffiliated member of her race”—the book probes the limits and intersections of the personal and the political. Wright intersperses descriptions of the Arkansas landscape; her own journey researching; transcriptions from V, her family, and others who experienced the events of that violent summer; lists of prices (“the only sure thing in those days”); the weather (“temperatures in the 90s even after a shower”), newspaper headlines; and personal memories. Through juxtaposition and repetition, she weaves a compelling, disturbing, and often beautiful tapestry that at once questions the ability of language to get at the complicated truth of history (“because the warp is everywhere”), and underscores the ethical imperative to try. As Wright learns from V, “To act, just to act. That was the glorious thing.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/16/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
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