Jay Wright

1934 –

Jay Wright was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 25, 1934. He is an African American playwright, poet, and essayist. He played professional baseball before studying comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and Rutgers University.

Wright is the author of numerous collections of poetry: Postage Stamps (Flood Editions, 2023); Thirteen Quintets for Lois (Flood Editions, 2021); The Prime Anniversary (Flood Editions, 2019); Disorientations: Groundings (Flood Editions, 2013); Polynomials and Pollen: Parables, Proverbs, Paradigms, and Praise for Lois (Dalkey Archive Press, 2008); The Presentable Art of Reading Absence (Dalkey Archive Press, 2008); Music’s Mask and Measure (Flood Editions, 2007); The Guide Signs: Book One (Louisiana State University Press, 2007); and The Guide Signs: Book Two (Louisiana State University Press, 2007); Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Louisiana State University, 2000); Boleros (Princeton University Press, 1991); Selected Poems of Jay Wright (Princeton University Press, 1987), edited by Robert B. Stepto; Explications/Interpretations (University of Virginia Press, 1984); Elaine’s Book (University of Virginia Press, 1986); The Double Invention of Komo (University of Texas Press, 1980); Dimensions of History (Kayak, 1976); Soothsayers and Omens (Seven Woods Press, 1976); and The Homecoming Singer (Corinth Books, 1971).

Wright has also written more than thirty plays, a dozen of which have been published, including The Dramatic Radiance of Number: Selected Plays of Jay Wright, Volume One and Figurations and Dedications: Selected Plays of Jay Wright, Volume Two, both published in 2022 by Kenning Editions. He is also the author, more recently, of the essay collection Soul and Substance: A Poet’s Examination Papers (Princeton University Press, 2023)

About Wright’s work, critic Harold Bloom wrote,

As an immensely learned poet, Wright tries to defend himself against incessant allusiveness by stripping his diction, sometimes to an astonishing sparseness.... His most characteristic art returns always to that commodious lyricism I associate with American poetry at its most celebratory, in [Walt] Whitman, in [Wallace] Stevens, in [Stephen] Crane, in [John] Ashbery.

Wright’s honors include the 2000 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Literary Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship, and the Oscar Williams and Gene Derwood Award. He was the recipient of the 1996 Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Wright was also named the 2005 recipient of Yale University’s Bollingen Prize for American Poetry.

Wright lives in Bradford, Vermont.