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New England Literary News | Jan Gardner

Admiring law professor’s global photos, recalling life, poetry of C.D. Wright

Henry Steiner’s photo of children from a village west of Hanoi.Henry Steiner

A ‘World’ of imagery

One of Henry Steiner’s favorite images from his 50-plus years of taking pictures is of a massive boulder outside a Hindu temple in India. “The scene was all rock and sky, scorching sun, and deep shade, held together and dominated by the imperial boulder,” he writes in his self-published photography book “Eyeing the World.”

As he wondered how he could introduce some contrasting element, a man who had been lying in the boulder’s shadow rose. “The proximity of body and boulder underscored the boulder’s immensity and even suggested possible danger to the man,” Steiner writes. Luck had intervened; he got the picture he wanted.


“Eyeing the World” features images from Bhutan, Brazil, Cambodia, Egypt, Italy, and Vietnam. When Steiner visited a farming village outside of Hanoi, a group of children stopped to watch him. One boy stood up and thrust his butt out, drawing laughter from his friends. Was it a show for Steiner? Was he being mocked? No matter, it made for a lively picture.

Steiner, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, founded the school’s Human Rights Program in 1984 and served as its director until 2005. Whether traveling for work or for pleasure, he always takes his camera with him, looking for what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment.

Memorializing a poet in multiple parts

Poet C.D. Wright focused not only on her own work but on paying tribute to writers of all kinds throughout history. One manifestation of this is “A Reader’s Map of Rhode Island,” an encyclopedic poster she published in 1999 with entries for some 200 writers associated with the state. There is H.P. Lovecraft and Edith Wharton, James Fenimore Cooper and S.J. Perelman, Paula Vogel and Chris Van Allsburg. She hoped to find someone to put it online and keep it updated. Wright, who taught at Brown University for more than 30 years, died in her sleep in January at the age of 67.


The life and poetry of Wright, fiercely devoted both to her home state of Arkansas (for which she also created a reader’s map) and her adopted home of Rhode Island, will be celebrated next month over two days at Brown University. Her dozen-plus volumes of poetry reflect a wide range of styles so it’s fitting that the “Come Shining” tribute consists of multiple parts and the mediums of dance, art, and music. On Nov. 8 at 8 p.m., close friends will offer remembrances of her. Among them will be the Memphis-born novelist Steve Stern. Poetry students of Wright will give a reading Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. The finale, at 8 that evening, will feature Richard Leo Johnson, an old friend from Arkansas, who will play solo guitar, and Eiko Otake, a movement-based performing artist with whom Wright and her husband, fellow poet Forrest Gander, collaborated in Santiago, Chile. All programs take place at Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, 154 Angell St., Providence.

Coming out

“Sequential Drawings: The New Yorker Series” by Richard McGuire (Pantheon)

“The Wrong Side of Goodbye” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)

“Tippi: A Memoir” by Tippi Hedren (Morrow)

Pick of the Week

Darwin Ellis of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends “Nobody’s Son: A Memoir” by Mark Slouka (Norton): “This soul-searching study of memory and personal pain is an absolutely mesmerizing read. To some extent, most of us think we came from dysfunctional families, but this memoir is going to become the calibration standard for dysfunction. How Slouka survived his parents and their scarred Czech pasts, their humiliating years as refugees, and their years of unhappy marriage in America is a small miracle.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.