A Short Course: CD Wright – An American Original

The Community of Writers is honored to present a five-week intensive series on the life and work of poet CD Wright taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Forrest Gander and Griffin Poetry Prize-winning poet Brenda Hillman.

C.D.Wright’s poetry is some of the most beloved and legendary work of our literary era. She was a uniquely original writer but she was also part of— and helped to form— a vast unfolding literary community from the 1980s until her untimely death in 2016, traditions that included Elliptical, Documentary, Southern, Experimental, and Narrative Poetries; in addition, she was a master of the short lyric and the long poem. Aside from the visceral pleasures of reading her work, what do we have to learn from a writer with such a wide range of approaches to the poem? And how did she come to be the expansive writer we know? Poets Forrest Gander and Brenda Hillman will guide participants through an overview of Wright’s extraordinary writing. The course will be designed for those who know Wright’s work already, as well as for those encountering her poetry for the first time.

Dates & Times: August 31 – September 28: 4 pm- 6-pm (Pacific)

August 31, 2023 

September 7, 2023 

September 14, 2023 

September 21, 2023 

September 28, 2023 

Note: For those who are interested, intimate Zoom discussion groups (Virtual Houses) will meet after each session and on subsequent Saturdays at 10 AM.

More Details

We’ll follow the course of her work from its narrative origins in Arkansas through her encounter with Language Poetry in San Francisco and later with an internationally oriented literary scene in Providence, where she came to teach for many years. We will be using Wright’s Selected Poems and will take a close look at the single volume, the ground-breaking Deep Step Come Shining; participants will be encouraged to have those volumes on hand. A pdf of additional materials will be provided. We will close read poems, and talk about how Wright structures sentences and entire books. (In addition for her talent for writing poems, she had a particular knack for sequencing, for putting a book together). We’ll talk about friendships, collaborations, Wright’s changing sense of genre, diction, and much more. We look forward to celebrating the poetry of this great artist.

What to Expect:

  • Five, two-hour weekly sessions online with assigned reading.
  • In the first 60 or 70 minutes, Gander and Hillman will explore and supply background on the previously assigned poems.
  • In the second part, we will address questions and widen the discussion. Participant questions and comments will be submitted in Vimeo’s chat feature.
  • Optional small (8-10 person) discussion groups will be available to those with the energy and interest after the formal session is over. Discussion guides will be provided.
  • These sessions will be recorded, and will be available for later viewing by registered participants for 30 days following the final session.

Course Texts

Participants who don’t own the texts, are asked to purchase them through Copper Canyon’s website and explore them, if possible, before August. Some aid is available to help with book purchases. Please contact us if needed.

Steal Away: Selected and New Poems
by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)
*Deep Step Come Shining
by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)

* If Deep Step Come Shining is unavailable, you may purchase a copy directly from Copper Canyon by emailing janeen@coppercanyonpress.org.


Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)

One With Others by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)


Forrest Gander, a writer and translator with degrees in geology and literature, was born in the Mojave Desert and lives in northern California. His books, often concerned with ecology, include Twice AliveBe With, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and the collaboration, Knot, with photographer Jack Shear. Gander’s translations include It Must Be a Misunderstanding by Coral Bracho, Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura (Best Translated Book Award), and Names and Rivers: Poems by Shuri Kido. He has received grants from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting and United States Artists Foundations. forrestgander.com

Brenda Hillman’s most recent books are In a Few Minutes Before Later (Wesleyan University Press, 2022) and Extra Hidden Life among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). Hillman has co-edited and co-translated numerous volumes, including Ana Cristina Cesar’s At Your Feet (Parlor Press, 2018), co-translated from Portuguese with her mother Helen Hillman. Her awards for poetry include the 2020 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award for Innovation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  She teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California, co-directs Poetry Week at Community of Writers and  currently serves as a Chancellor at the Academy of American Poets. brendahillman.net

C.D. Wright (1949-2016) published sixteen collections of poetry and prose and served on the faculty at Brown University for decades. Her book One With Others [a little book of her days] was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize. She also received awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and in 2004 she was named a MacArthur Fellow. Reviewing Rising, Falling, Hovering, The New York Times noted: “C.D. Wright belongs to a school of exactly one.” cdwrightpoet.com


  • Tuition is $300. This course has started. Contact us if you would still like to register.
  • Limited financial aid available. Please contact us if needed.

The Writers Annex

Online, and year-round, The Writers’ Annex is composed of short courses, seminars, workshops, and more. Our vision is to bring the creative insight and experience of our staff poets and prose writers to our community in all seasons, not just in the summertime, and not just here in our Valley.  Our online offerings will address such topics as eco-poetics, translation, and generative sessions. Some will be one or two days, some will be weekend intensives, and some will meet weekly for a month or two. In addition, we hope these offerings will help offset the tremendous expenses we face as an organization for our traditional in-person events in Olympic Valley.   Join our Mailing List

This short course has started. If you would like to join anyway and get caught up with the recordings of previous sessions, click the button below.

Contact us to learn how to view past short courses

Thank you to our Book Sponsor