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Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

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C. D. Wright takes her title from a line of legal defense, peculiar to Texas courts, in which it is held that if a man kills before having had time “to cool” after receiving an injury or an insult he is not guilty of murder. Cooling Time is a new type of book, an unruly vigil that is an interconnected memoir-poem-essay about contemporary American poetry. Ever focused on pos C. D. Wright takes her title from a line of legal defense, peculiar to Texas courts, in which it is held that if a man kills before having had time “to cool” after receiving an injury or an insult he is not guilty of murder. Cooling Time is a new type of book, an unruly vigil that is an interconnected memoir-poem-essay about contemporary American poetry. Ever focused on possibilities, Wright demonstrates that “the search for models becomes a search for alternatives,” and thereby defines the terms by which poets can chart their own course. These are some of the things I have touched in my life that are forbidden: paintings behind velvet ropes, electric fencing, a vault in an office, gun in a drawer, my brother’s folding money, the poet’s anus, the black holes in his heart—where his life went out of him. Tell me, what is the long stretch of road for if not to sort out the reasons why we are here and why we do what we do, from why we are not in the other lane doing what others do. Poetry is like food remarked one of my first teachers, freeing me to dislike Rocky Mountain Oysters and Robert Lowell. The menu is vast, the list of things I don’t want in my mouth relatively short. C.D. Wright, author of nine books of poetry, teaches at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with poet Forrest Gander.


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C. D. Wright takes her title from a line of legal defense, peculiar to Texas courts, in which it is held that if a man kills before having had time “to cool” after receiving an injury or an insult he is not guilty of murder. Cooling Time is a new type of book, an unruly vigil that is an interconnected memoir-poem-essay about contemporary American poetry. Ever focused on pos C. D. Wright takes her title from a line of legal defense, peculiar to Texas courts, in which it is held that if a man kills before having had time “to cool” after receiving an injury or an insult he is not guilty of murder. Cooling Time is a new type of book, an unruly vigil that is an interconnected memoir-poem-essay about contemporary American poetry. Ever focused on possibilities, Wright demonstrates that “the search for models becomes a search for alternatives,” and thereby defines the terms by which poets can chart their own course. These are some of the things I have touched in my life that are forbidden: paintings behind velvet ropes, electric fencing, a vault in an office, gun in a drawer, my brother’s folding money, the poet’s anus, the black holes in his heart—where his life went out of him. Tell me, what is the long stretch of road for if not to sort out the reasons why we are here and why we do what we do, from why we are not in the other lane doing what others do. Poetry is like food remarked one of my first teachers, freeing me to dislike Rocky Mountain Oysters and Robert Lowell. The menu is vast, the list of things I don’t want in my mouth relatively short. C.D. Wright, author of nine books of poetry, teaches at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with poet Forrest Gander.

30 review for Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

  1. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    There are many books about writing, which at first glance seems silly and insular but on second glance makes a hell of a lot of sense. I stand by what Brian Blanchfield said (badly paraphrased)--that everyone laments because only poets read poetry, but maybe that's because reading poetry creates poets. Like, poets come from poetry as much as the other way 'round. "Nobody reads poetry, we are told at every inopportune moment. I read poetry. I am somebody," Wright insists. Anyway, I don't read tha There are many books about writing, which at first glance seems silly and insular but on second glance makes a hell of a lot of sense. I stand by what Brian Blanchfield said (badly paraphrased)--that everyone laments because only poets read poetry, but maybe that's because reading poetry creates poets. Like, poets come from poetry as much as the other way 'round. "Nobody reads poetry, we are told at every inopportune moment. I read poetry. I am somebody," Wright insists. Anyway, I don't read that many books about writing, but for this one I am intensely grateful. There is no one I would rather be comforted by, reamed out by, encouraged by than one of these grandmother poets. Her advice is free but not unsolicited--it's the voice of experience you go looking for at some point. If for nothing else, then just for permission to want to write. Nobody else is doling that out, let me tell you. This particular book is interesting as an object because it came in the mail, secondhand, and it has a puncture wound on page 37 that fades out around page 60, as though someone had literally stabbed it. I have no idea why that would be the case, but I feel like there's a story there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Meg Gee

    A book I needed right now to articulate the issues I've been grappling with as a poet, writer, and someone who wants to continue being a writer for many years to come. She does a great job of expressing the necessity of forward-thinking, innovation, and deconstructing an academy that rewards conformity. I enjoyed the genre-bending, but I do think sections and some reordering would help make the progression seamless. A book I needed right now to articulate the issues I've been grappling with as a poet, writer, and someone who wants to continue being a writer for many years to come. She does a great job of expressing the necessity of forward-thinking, innovation, and deconstructing an academy that rewards conformity. I enjoyed the genre-bending, but I do think sections and some reordering would help make the progression seamless.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bunnyhoopla

    a favorite. "the poem discovers the line, or the poem goes blind trying" a favorite. "the poem discovers the line, or the poem goes blind trying"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Matthew

    "If you are so afraid of ending up with an opinion, afraid it will color your work, you might ask yourself how transparent is your refusal to make choices, how disinterested can any work be and still stand. How obvious is your withdrawal. What is the artistic advantage of neutrality, allowing such a condition even existed. How would it be distinguished from indifference or mere self-interest." p.28 Since I've been given explicit endorsement from the author, here it is: I hated it. I know I'm wrong "If you are so afraid of ending up with an opinion, afraid it will color your work, you might ask yourself how transparent is your refusal to make choices, how disinterested can any work be and still stand. How obvious is your withdrawal. What is the artistic advantage of neutrality, allowing such a condition even existed. How would it be distinguished from indifference or mere self-interest." p.28 Since I've been given explicit endorsement from the author, here it is: I hated it. I know I'm wrong. I'm not an academic poet. I know this book isn't for me and I want to like it for what it is. But at the same time here's the thing: I don't. { An acknowledgement: Wright is brilliant and won't be allow me to remain satisfied with simple dispassionate dislike: "I know who poetry can't accommodate: the tourist. ... it can't be identified with the compulsion to shop instead of the desire to touch, to be touched" (p. 49). Well know this C.D., my copy is filled with markings and marginalia. Don't worry, your poetry has been touched, and I have touched it. I have fondled it, caressed it, stroked it, and held it in my hand and turned it over in my mind and now - now I am angry with it. } A literary aristocrat long an insider to poetry's highest tiers, it's only natural for this vigil to gaze downward on the corpus of American poetry. "The poetry of the white shirt does not gladly speak to the poetry of the blue" Wright admits amidst a terse discursive wandering from a literary comparison between Madonna and Norman Schwarzkopf, to the pornographic habits of Navy fighter pilots, then on to the reality of poetic elitism. And such is the nature of this work. There are *many* legitimately enjoyable, quirky, and flavorful passages balanced out entirely equally by Wright's seemingly intentionally obtuse, esoteric, and inescapably pretentious prose poetry. The reading experience was one of continually butting heads with the author, annoyed with her insistence on avoiding accessibility and discernable structure, then only after stopping for a moment finding yourself faced with a blazingly beautiful, sharp and pointed passage about the politics and doubts of the raw experience behind the heart of poetry, a perfectly framed quote from Miles Davis, Gertrude Stein, or any one of a number of other artists, painters, and literary figures, or an inspirational personal anecdote regarding a house visit with a unique and prolific poet from Horatio, Arkansas. "Cooling Time" is now back on my bookshelf, ready to be forgotten about. And you know what frustrates me? There's too many aesthetic truths about poetry to really ignore it well. I'll probably reach for it again - out of anger of course.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    No matter your art or craft, CD Wright’s collection/story is so relevant. As a fellow Arkansan, I connected with her imagery and use of language. I read each entry 3-4 times each because there’s so much to mine. A great read for any artist or anyone who has been fortunate to be so affected by one’s home.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kate Kernan

    CD Wright is a modern political poet who sees so many sides of our current era, and brings them together so beautifully in art. Cooling Time is a collection of thoughts and reflections on the current state of American poetry and through its lens, the current state of ourselves.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    A compelling book that defies classification.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Tait

    Loved it. As a poet I found it inspiring and thought provoking. I seldom read one book at a time, but set aside all others to concentrate on this one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    C.D. Wright's Casting Deep Shade is an all-time favorite and I'd had this on my list after. Honestly I did not understand half of it and I don't care. This is a mix of essays related to poetry, and poetry, and memoir. I enjoyed the challenge and will likely go back to re-read.  C.D. Wright's Casting Deep Shade is an all-time favorite and I'd had this on my list after. Honestly I did not understand half of it and I don't care. This is a mix of essays related to poetry, and poetry, and memoir. I enjoyed the challenge and will likely go back to re-read. 

  10. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Meng

    "I am not convinced poetic camps serve the purpose of nonassimilation as well as they purport. I think they just put more heavy-handed poetry cops on the beat. They jump down your throat for commingling and they jump down your throat for having a good time and learning a new step and jump down your throat for moving a few rocks out of your way. I have always acceded to poetry as a free space. 'I'll let you be in my dream if I can be n yours.' Bob Dylan said that." "Controversies between strains o "I am not convinced poetic camps serve the purpose of nonassimilation as well as they purport. I think they just put more heavy-handed poetry cops on the beat. They jump down your throat for commingling and they jump down your throat for having a good time and learning a new step and jump down your throat for moving a few rocks out of your way. I have always acceded to poetry as a free space. 'I'll let you be in my dream if I can be n yours.' Bob Dylan said that." "Controversies between strains of poetry are useful tools of refinement, perhaps especially to those of us who see ourselves on the sidelines but affected by kindred issues. But literary hegemony, the drive to prevail, seems insupportable, and poisonously reflective of class allegiances. Both the vanguard and the rear guard simulate the dominant hierarchies. Of the vanguard I can say, I admire their procedures, but I think their attitude stinks. Of the rear guard I admit I think their procedures and their attitudes stink. When this discord erupts into an all-or-none competition, the last reader can exit in a body bag. 'Writing,' as Colette wrote, 'leads only to writing.' I do not see any end to it." "One notices for instance that the charges against the opposition-identified "academic poets" dropped off as the self-identified opponents began to take up gainful employment therein." "I feel complete when this trouble is shared, and when it is being made, alone, in the dark, I feel like a spider who has to get that web made because she is hungry. She is always hungry. I have a spidery hand and I try to get it to transmit to my mind, and then I try to make it attractive enough to draw others in. They say Walt Whitman's beard drew butterflies." "Quite simply, the gravitational fiel of the word has yet to relax its draw on us. How could anyone give up a space so implausible, so underrated, uncompromising, lost, deep and wild, downright weird, chosen, comforting, timeless and true, so near the aorta, so fitted to the brainpan, taut and tense, pressurized, so sheer and obscure, so glossal, igneous, voracious, horny and approximate to fulfillment, fulminating, probing, uninhibited, restive, rancorous and rad, so rank-and-file, saber-toothed, so irreducible as in stripped to its vitals, so mutinous, so sensational, sweet, and transfiguring?" "Poets are mostly voters and taxpayers, but the alienation of the poet is a common theme. Among poets there are also probably higher than average rates of clutch burnout, job turnover, rooting about, sleep apnea, noncompliance, nervous leg syndrome, depression, litigation, black clothing, and so forth, but this is where we live, or as Leonard Cohen put it, poetry is the opiate of the poets."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chip Landis

    I prefer this poet's prose to her poetry. I prefer this poet's prose to her poetry.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    After reading, I have found that while many pages hit hard, a good deal of the rest was lost in references that I have not been able to check out, therefore was lost on me completely. This is a book I would like to try cracking again later on. 1) The first couple of pages are the most exciting thing I've read in my life. 2) The book was printed in Port Townsend, WA. 3) The title is based on a loophole in Texas law, that at first merits absolute disbelief and a willingness to press into it furthe After reading, I have found that while many pages hit hard, a good deal of the rest was lost in references that I have not been able to check out, therefore was lost on me completely. This is a book I would like to try cracking again later on. 1) The first couple of pages are the most exciting thing I've read in my life. 2) The book was printed in Port Townsend, WA. 3) The title is based on a loophole in Texas law, that at first merits absolute disbelief and a willingness to press into it further, because the implications are huge. And it's not that these three things separately thrill me about this book, it's the interaction between them. That the prose speaks directly to some things I've been rolling and wrestling about with in a quiet way, written in such a strong and controlled cadence; that the title references a loophole unique to the state in which I now live, serves to remind me that being here is a strange circumstantial loophole into which I've stepped; that it was printed in a town and place that claims such a specific time and place in my memory, just to think of it, it feels like it belongs to me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Litnivorous

    The word 'Vigil' implies a quiet, restful, candlelit watch, which is eloquent but not quite the feeling you'll get from CD Wright's Cooling Time. This book is in many ways explosive, subversive, jarring, swelling, swirling...it's downright awesome. I have read no better testimony of the American poet. You won't soon forget Cooling Time--its moments of clarity or obscurity. You might do as I have done, carry it with you in your emotional perception of everything holy. Laugh in the face of other s The word 'Vigil' implies a quiet, restful, candlelit watch, which is eloquent but not quite the feeling you'll get from CD Wright's Cooling Time. This book is in many ways explosive, subversive, jarring, swelling, swirling...it's downright awesome. I have read no better testimony of the American poet. You won't soon forget Cooling Time--its moments of clarity or obscurity. You might do as I have done, carry it with you in your emotional perception of everything holy. Laugh in the face of other stories of the writing life: Annie Dillard, please hang your head in shame.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara Willis

    "We come from a country that has made a fetish if not a virtue out of proving it can live without art: high, low, old, new, fat, lean, and particularly the rarely visible, nocturnal art of poetry. We must do something with our time on this small aleatory sphere for motives other than money. Power is not an acceptable surrogate." -C.D. Wright, Cooling Time A friend recommended this book. What a great friend. "We come from a country that has made a fetish if not a virtue out of proving it can live without art: high, low, old, new, fat, lean, and particularly the rarely visible, nocturnal art of poetry. We must do something with our time on this small aleatory sphere for motives other than money. Power is not an acceptable surrogate." -C.D. Wright, Cooling Time A friend recommended this book. What a great friend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    h

    wright's really lovely prose-ish, poem-ish critical analysis of poems, poetry, and american locales. "And if it be poetry that makes the words flesh, then it is no less or more escapable than our bodies." (8) "The artistic reward for refuting the received national tradition is liberation. The price is homelessness. Interior exile." (39) "The poem discovers the line or the poem goes blind trying." (92) wright's really lovely prose-ish, poem-ish critical analysis of poems, poetry, and american locales. "And if it be poetry that makes the words flesh, then it is no less or more escapable than our bodies." (8) "The artistic reward for refuting the received national tradition is liberation. The price is homelessness. Interior exile." (39) "The poem discovers the line or the poem goes blind trying." (92)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lancelot Schaubert

    C.D. Wright single-handedly redefined and expanded my view of poetry's potentia with this little book. My copy was given to me by one of my readers and it grows deeper and more profound with every reading. It's no coincidence that she works – that her husband also works – at Copper Canyon. With a meditation on poetry like this, how could you do anything other than invest in the next great generation of poets? C.D. Wright single-handedly redefined and expanded my view of poetry's potentia with this little book. My copy was given to me by one of my readers and it grows deeper and more profound with every reading. It's no coincidence that she works – that her husband also works – at Copper Canyon. With a meditation on poetry like this, how could you do anything other than invest in the next great generation of poets?

  17. 5 out of 5

    C

    'If you are so afraid of ending up with an opinion, afraid it will color your work, you might ask yourself how transparent is your refusal to make choices, how disinterested can any work be and still stand. How obvious is your withdrawal. What is the artistic advantage of neutrality, allowing such a condition even existed. How would it be distinguished from indifference or mere indifference.' 'If you are so afraid of ending up with an opinion, afraid it will color your work, you might ask yourself how transparent is your refusal to make choices, how disinterested can any work be and still stand. How obvious is your withdrawal. What is the artistic advantage of neutrality, allowing such a condition even existed. How would it be distinguished from indifference or mere indifference.'

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Interesting.... CD Wright muses through her poetic mind. What surprised and pleased me was how much she waded into the fray of America's fractious poetry community -- and by how much she came down praising the diversity, rather than criticizing one side or another. This book came at a good time to me -- giving permission to roll around in one's particular influences and quirks. Interesting.... CD Wright muses through her poetic mind. What surprised and pleased me was how much she waded into the fray of America's fractious poetry community -- and by how much she came down praising the diversity, rather than criticizing one side or another. This book came at a good time to me -- giving permission to roll around in one's particular influences and quirks.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Part manifesto, part memoir, this book reflects the searching and nonpareil mind of one of contemporary poetry's most engaged, engaging voices, snuffed much too soon when Wright died unexpectedly in early 2016. While parts are a bit disheveled and didactic, overall the book serves as moving testimony to the power of poetry. Part manifesto, part memoir, this book reflects the searching and nonpareil mind of one of contemporary poetry's most engaged, engaging voices, snuffed much too soon when Wright died unexpectedly in early 2016. While parts are a bit disheveled and didactic, overall the book serves as moving testimony to the power of poetry.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Willi Goehring

    "Sometimes poetry is a beautiful sick dog that shits all over the house." -Frank Stanford. Wright is legitimately insightful about the reason poetry gets written. She is not an apologist, yet she she recognizes the complex political and social vicissitudes of the profession. I keep this book in my office, and turn to it constantly. "Sometimes poetry is a beautiful sick dog that shits all over the house." -Frank Stanford. Wright is legitimately insightful about the reason poetry gets written. She is not an apologist, yet she she recognizes the complex political and social vicissitudes of the profession. I keep this book in my office, and turn to it constantly.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Young

    The ending of this book was one of the most singularly moving things I've encountered lately. I don't know why, or rather I can't articulate why. This book had a sublime effect on me. "Your utmost, is it not, at worst, a self-constructed alternative to caving in." The ending of this book was one of the most singularly moving things I've encountered lately. I don't know why, or rather I can't articulate why. This book had a sublime effect on me. "Your utmost, is it not, at worst, a self-constructed alternative to caving in."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    a book i return to on a regular basis. inspiring is a lame word but it's true a book i return to on a regular basis. inspiring is a lame word but it's true

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    My favorite book on poetics by my favorite poet, C.D. Wright. Bristling with static and light, the book has a charge to it, especially for those in the tribe that call themselves poets.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    passionate shards. take some and leave some. overall, i took a lot. also, enjoyed the confidence of her voice.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cary

    The second most important book ABOUT poetry I've ever read. The second most important book ABOUT poetry I've ever read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ann-marie

    This book is the one I return to when I'm not writing, when I've been rejected yet again from some journal. She reminds me of that to believe in the word is all. This book is the one I return to when I'm not writing, when I've been rejected yet again from some journal. She reminds me of that to believe in the word is all.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Juliet

    Wonderfully moving.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Conversing about this book: http://cityoflanguage.blogspot.com/se... Conversing about this book: http://cityoflanguage.blogspot.com/se...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    the interesting thing about cooling time...well the language. quick three or four page jaunts into the dark, to the art, to the abstract.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Nice to read slowly, for poetic inspiration. Gave me a structure of purpose to infuse the craft.

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