James Wright

James Wright

About James Wright

James Arlington Wright (December 13, 1927 in Martins Ferry, Ohio – March 25, 1980 in New York City, New York) was an American poet, literary critic and university lecturer. Wright, who came from a working-class family, grew up in the small town of Martins Ferry during the Great Depression and served in the US Army during World War II. He began postgraduate studies at Kenyon College, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts. He then studied at the University of Vienna between 1952 and 1953 with the financial support of the Fulbright program and completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Washington in 1954 with a Master of Arts.
Wright began writing in the mid-1950s and published his first volume of poetry, The Green Wall, in 1957 that was awarded the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize. During the same year, he also took on a professorship at the University of Minnesota, where he taught until 1963. In 1959, he dedicated one of his best-known poems to his native city, Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio. During this time he also earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Washington in 1959 and at the same time began publishing anthologies in the early 1960s with works by Georg Trakl, César Vallejo, Theodor Storm, Pablo Neruda and Hermann hesse After being a professor at Macalester College from 1963 to 1965, he taught from 1966 until his death in 1980 as a professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1972 for his collection of poetry, Collected Poems, published in 1971. In 1974 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Wright has been married twice. From his first marriage in 1953 to Liberty Kardules, which ended in divorce in 1962, he had two sons, Franz and Marshall Wright. His second marriage, to Edith Anne Crunk in 1967, remained childless. He died on March 25, 1980 at the age of 52 as a result of cancer. In his honor, the James Wright Poetry Festival was held annually at Martins Ferry from 1980 to 2007.

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