Poet and Playwright
Piermont, New Hampshire
Age: 52 at time of award
Published August 1, 1986
Jay Wright is a poet, a playwright, and an author whose work explores the rituals and myths of diverse cultures.
An African-American and a native of the Southwest, Wright has challenged accepted notions of history, culture, and the literary imagination. His poetry fuses the histories and cosmologies of Africa and Mexico, while drawing on antecedents as diverse as medieval and Renaissance studies, philosophy, anthropology, music, religion, and the literatures of Europe and the Americas. His books of poetry include The Homecoming Singer (1971), Soothsayer and Omens (1976), Dimensions of History (1976), The Double Invention of Komo (1980), Selected Poems (1987), Elaine’s Book (1988), Boleros (1991), and Transfigurations: Collected Poems (2000). A playwright as well, Wright has published Love’s Equations (1983), The Adoration of Fire (1985), The Sacred Impurity: Death’s First Invention (1987), Daughters of the Water (1987), The Delights of Memory: 1, 2, and 3 (1991 and 1994), Booking (2004), and Evidence (2004).
Generally considered to be outside the mainstream of contemporary literature, Wright has never held a regular academic position, but has previously served as a visiting Fannie Hurst Professor of Creative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.
Wright received a B.A. (1961) from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. (1967) from Rutgers University.
Last updated January 1, 2005.