Wright, James A.

Born: December 13, 1927
Died: March 25, 1980

Martin’s Ferry

Ohio connection: Birth

James Arlington Wright was born in 1927 in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He received a B.A. from Kenyon College in 1952 and went from there to the University of Washington, where he earned an M.A. in 1954 and a Ph.D. in 1959. He was an English instructor, lecturer and professor in numerous colleges between 1957 and 1980. Considered by many to be one of America’s finest contemporary poets, Wright was willing and able to experiment with both language and style. He tended to move in a freer style as his poetry developed over the years. Major themes were loneliness, alienation, and death. Despite the despair inherent in much of Wright’s poetry, there would often be an awakening or a sense of celebration as the work ended. His poetry books include The Green Wall, The Branch Will Not Break, Shall We Gather at the River, Two Citizens, I See the Wind, and This Journey. He also translated numerous works of other authors. James Arlington Wright died of cancer in 1980.

Fulbright fellow in Austria, 1952-53; Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, 1955, and Oscar Blumenthal Award, 1968, both from Poetry; Yale Series of Younger Poets award, 1957, for The Green Wall; Kenyon Review fellowship in poetry, 1958; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant in literature, 1959; Ohiona Book Award, 1960, for Saint Judas; Guggenheim fellowship, 1964 and 1978; Creative Arts Award, Brandeis University, 1970; Academy of American Poets fellowship, 1971; Melville Cane Award, Poetry Society of America, 1972; Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, University of Columbia, 1978, for Collected Poems.