Carolyn D. Wright was born on January 6, 1949, in Mountain Home, Arkansas, a small town in the north Ozarks. Her parents, Ernie Wright, a chancery judge, and Alyce Wright, a court reporter, named her Carolyn Doris. (She has used her initials in her writing to avoid confusion with another poet.) When she was six, her parents moved to Harrison, Arkansas, another small town, where she grew up absorbing Ozarks culture and dialect, both of which permeate her writing without evoking the “hillbilly” stereotype which, like most Ozarks citizens, she disdains. Her writing about her early life pictures her mother as a model of female independence and strength. Wright has also recalled her early love of reading, including her discovery of E. E. Cummings, whose typographical innovations seemed liberating to her. It was only in college, however, that she began to read women writers from the south, especially Flannery O’Connor whose use of southern dialect in her unsentimental pictures of rural people is recalled in Wright’s work.
Wright received a B.A. degree in French from Memphis State in 1971. While in Memphis, she met the woman she calls “Mrs. Vititow” in her autobiographical essay in Cooling Time; in her Wright saw a self-educated woman who conducted her life as she wished, without regard for others’ opinions, and Wright cites her as an important influence on her growth. In 1973, Wright entered the M.F.A. program in creative writing at the...
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