“Carolyne Wright explores in poetry what it means to live in different worlds, and probes with great sensitivity what it means to live in two or more different worlds at the same time . . . Wright writes with passion, eloquence, and clear moral perspective.”
“Carolyne Wright—poet, intellectual, gypsy—is the author of eight books and chapbooks. The widely traveled and widely acclaimed writer has most recently published A Change of Maps, an award-winning collection that Elinor Benedict reviews in The Iowa Review as poetry that “strongly reveals a woman’s search for love, as well as a scholar’s parallel search for independence and intellectual fulfillment.” Wright has traveled the world (Latin America, India, Bangladesh) on research fellowships and translation projects, and the language of her poetry is grounded in metaphors of terrain, geography, and cartography as a way to explore and express the human response to desire and change. Her poems also bring her home: many of them return her to the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, where she was raised. “Return to Seattle: Bastille Day” opens with the following stunning imagery: ‘No difference in the gray gulls, sobbing / like women who circled the tumbrels, / scaffold silhouettes of fir. / The same sky lowers over the channel, / the plane follows it down / like an obsession, guillotine blade / of sun on water.’
“Although Wright may be regarded as a wanderer of the globe, her poems are crisp, precise, and controlled explosions of revelation, wit, and insight. Her first poem in A Change of Maps, “Studies with Miss Bishop,” exemplifies the formalism Wright was taught by her teacher, Elizabeth Bishop. An abecedarian form—beginning both lines of each couplet with each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order—this clever slant-rhymed poem introduces readers to her skill and to her themes of movement, isolation, intellectual hunger, and longing for connection.”
—Nancy Pagh, author of No Sweeter Fat
“Carolyne Wright knows “how we will outsmart the distance,” where, she says, “light lingers like an obsession,” where sleepwalkers can be found “lost in the heart’s / subzero weather,” or where “Roethke blazed in mythic, maniacal / dolor,” because we know it is the poet who can insist that “the truth, after all, / [is] our best rhetoric.” Wright’s perceptual care, her energy of language and its sounds, tethers and tightrope-walks, treats us to a mouth-to-mouth experience of music from the mind. In these poems, Man is placed somewhere center-front in the big theater of Nature. With a true “profusion of the senses,” measures of loss that are “green as sorrow,” and love in its “sea-displacing passion,” Wright convinces us that our mission is insight, our history lesson to be learned in “the heart’s unfinished country.” And so, her skill is our reward.”
—Elena Karina Byrne, author of The Flammable Bird and Masque (Tupelo Press)
“Formally elegant, thematically intelligent, urgent and thoughtful, A Change of Maps traverses the American landscape—its primal beauty and human diminishment—and explores the tensions in the nature of this country, its mix of cultures, and its losses both national and personal. In these brilliant and intuitive poems, Carolyne Wright reflects on love and independence, love and work, choices made in youth and the larger awarenesses that enable the world and the species to continue.”
“Carolyne Wright’s poems adventure with candor and heart—traveling into the hushed-up Fifties, onto subway platforms, through rain storms, through early drafts of love and the heart’s sub-zero weather. Everywhere, Wright sees her native territory with travel-widened eyes, even when moving across the brown lawns of Mid-America. Here, Argus and Preacher Bob co-exist, also ghazals and microchips, the Bronze Age and rusted Westinghouses, the shaman and the xerox machine. As childhoods wave goodbye, and whole coastlines wander off, Wright finds pinions in music (it is her job, she says, to mimic the wild crane’s cry), and in the promise of life unfolding. This poet carries a passport whose exit visas—like her poems—are a measure of a buoyant survival.”
About the Author
Carolyne Wright has published nine books and chapbooks of poetry, a collection of essays, and four volumes of translations from Spanish and Bengali. Her latest book is Mania Klepto: the Book of Eulene (Turning Point Books, 2011), featuring the post-modern alter-ego, Eulene. An earlier collection, Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (Carnegie Mellon UP / EWU Books, 2nd edition 2005), won the Blue Lynx Prize and American Book Award. Wright’s investigative memoir of her experiences in Chile on a Fulbright Study Grant during the presidency of Salvador Allende, The Road to Isla Negra, received the PEN/Jerard Fund Award and the Crossing Boundaries Award from International Quarterly. Wright spent four years on Indo-U.S. Subcommission and Fulbright Senior Research fellowships in Kolkata, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, collecting and translating the work of Bengali women poets and writers for an anthology in progress, A Bouquet of Roses on the Burning Ground, which received a Witter Bynner Foundation Grant and an NEA Fellowship in Translation, as well as a Fellowship from the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. A Seattle native who studied with Elizabeth Bishop and Richard Hugo, Wright has been a visiting writer at colleges, universities, schools, and conferences around the country. She moved back to Seattle in 2005, and teaches for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts' Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program. A poem of hers appeared in The Best American Poetry 2009 (ed. David Wagoner) and the Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses (2010). She is a Senior Editor for Lost Horse Press, for which she is co-editing an anthology of poetry on women and work, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace.
Winner of the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards, Poetry, Bronze Award.
From The Iowa Review
by Elinor Benedict
From The Iowa Review by Elinor Benedict
Carolyne Wright's latest poetry collection, A Change of Maps, reveals a ship's log of discovery and loss that will resonate especially with women of intellect who navigate the shoals of career and love at home and abroad. Wright reveals the strength of her intelligence, energy, and ambition in this present book. The opening poem, a tour de force abecedarian called "Studies with Miss Bishop," paints a humorous but devastating picture of an aging, financially pressed poet-in-residence who reluctantly presides over a "dazed / clutch of undergraduates." Adopting the formalism that Bishop demanded of her students, Wright crafts twenty-six couplets that not only begin with the requisite ABCs and end with subtle slant rhymes, but also entertain the reader with colorful vignettes and playful language that metamorphose into a double-edged pathos. In the language of cartography, the title poem characterizes the poet's—and other humans'—experience of dizzying change in a time of cosmic and cybernetic exploration. Wright steers her readers past ancient maps that can't explain "how such charts voyaged into the New World / of our luggage" into "microchips shrinking our wildest dreams."
Coinciding with Mark Strand's idea in his book, The Continuous Life of Poetry, Wright uses poetry as a means of continuity, even survival, in a time of changing maps and shaken trust. With Elizabeth Bishop, Wright shares an easy, sophisticated display of language and vivid obsession with geography as metaphor. With Matthew Arnold, it's the will-o'-the-wisp search for answers that propels "The Scholar Gipsy." But in spite of these kinships, Wright is no clone of Arnold, Bishop, or Strand. She is sui generic, one of a kind, who writes brilliantly with her eyes on history, literature, and the stars. She also looks through the microscope of self and takes what she sees with a dash of salt, as well as a stab of the heart.
From The Midwest Book Review
From The Midwest Book ReviewEstablished in 1976, The Midwest Book Review publishes several monthly publications for community and academic library systems in California, Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest.
The latest poetry collection by award-winning author and poet Carolyne Wright, A Change of Maps, examines the power of travel, destiny, love and independence, as well as what it means to live in separate worlds and experience the clash of cultures. The free-verse conveys a bright and fresh approach to the challenges of destiny, in this lively and boldly enlightening compilation.
A single climber, making his way
handhold by handhold over the blue
labial folds of the glacier.
A man roped only to himself
under a sky closing down, breaking the first rule of avalanche weather.
Never climb on ice alone.
"He's either crazy," you whispered,
"or extremely good."
Your broken climber's trepidation.
"Who else would train
for the North Face of the Eiger?"
From The Cortland Review by David Rigsbee
Carolyne Wright starts her new collection of (mostly) first-person, autobiographical poems with a humdinger about studying with Elizabeth Bishop. By composing a poem that draws attention to the indirect, often slippery nature of literary pedagogy, Wright unobtrusively assumes a place in the line of succession. "Studies with Miss Bishop" provides a foundational shot, as it both applies Bishop's lessons and brings up the subjects that will be Wright's own: the past, the present coordinates, how divergence is the shape of time, and the importance of origins. The book's title signals both adoption of purpose and a departure from the teacher. And yet Wright's imagination, like Bishop's, redresses facts and their rebarbative edges, shape-shifting through art's chastening forms—and therefore providing a kind of compensation with the way life evolves, while memory devolves into discontinuities of meaning.
Carolyne Wright's journey through nearly four decades shows that the past is often a world that resists disclosure, and yet the fact is less a fact about the past than a fact about our ability to find signposts among contingent scenarios. Wright has this ability; which is less a concession to the spell of technique (which she owns) than a kind of knowledge about poetry's secret sway and coterie wisdom and therefore of abiding interest to poetry's serious readers—be they ever so few—who know that the intramural is what we used to call the universal, but know also that that is no come-down but a field promotion fitting for the lean hereafter.
From North American Review (Jan-Feb 2006) by Vince Gotera
This book is Wright's tribute to Elizabeth Bishop, beginning with a double abecedarian—rhymed couplets for each letter—on being Bishop's pupil. Wright re-travels her mentor's concerns and themes regarding geographic space and personal/historical time. A sestina dedicated to Bishop's memory muses on travel: modern tourism and medieval Crusades—"Someday these cities may be nothing but hotels." Like Bishop's, these poems are exquisite in form, insightful in theme. As many say of Bishop, Carolyne Wright is indeed 'a poet's poet.'
Last Dream in Perú
It was my job
to mimic the crane’s cry
as my friends and I skiffed
through the estuary reeds.
But how could I, unless my life
beat in the heart of the bird
and looked through his eye?
My own name was all
I could call.
As they rowed, my friends told me
how, under the floors of their cabins,
they’d excavated old stone walls
whose joints were still
as mortarless and smooth as faces
without memories or dreams.
All I meant to say went quiet.
Real cranes cried
above the thin wind.
It was time to turn back
to land. Before we reached
the shore, I’d have to find
an opening in the water
that fit my speech,
and whisper my name in it
before the lake closed over
and sank it like a stone.