MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 1986

Jay Wright

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.

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MacArthur Announces Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program

Most of the events will be open to the public for free or at low cost. Video of many events will be made available online. Read More