“In recent months I have been intent on seizing happiness.” So wrote C.D. Wright, my guiding star right now. If you’re naturally happy, you don’t make declarations to be happy. You throw out an idea, a wild proposition and follow it passionately to see where it goes. If your arm is strong, you toss that net far and wide to pull in both flowers and monsters.
I’m sitting at Wright’s feet now to gauge those monsters and flowers, but also to hear how, in her poetry, she navigated extremes. She wrote that she was pulled by extremes, as am I, and her selves swing wildly, as do mine. Mine has a kind of “pessimistic optimism” or “optimistic pessimism” or “radical realism.” I feel that I’m carrying battling twins around on these humid summer days. Where can I put them except on a page in form that doesn’t have to be resolved? Their form and spirit overseen by kindred spirits that I’ve pulled from my shelves? How lucky I am to have a way that keeps me human.
Returning to Wright, what follows her opening line in the poem”Crescent” about intending happiness is “to this end I applied various shades of blue.” She then hauls in all kinds of fierce and ironic material examples. She works up into a fierce lather that seems to reflect a sexual fury, a restless rage. No one lives in a world of our making. Yet fury at the “system” is freighted with an unabated wonder. Her material world crackles with straight-ahead fierce wonder at what is. As she moves through her world, she softens or careens to a kind of balance that places her outside herself, into selfless love and community. In her final great phrase, she delivers a profoundly earned mantra of illumination, for the road has been exhausting and exhilarating: “draw nearer my dear: never fear: the world spins nightly towards its brightness and we are on it”
“Crescent,” from Steal Away, Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press)