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James Wright Biography

(1928–80), The Green Wall, Saint Judas, The Branch Will Not Break

American poet, born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, educated at Kenyon College, where he studied with John Crowe Ransom, and the University of Washington where Theodore Roethke was his teacher and friend. Wright taught at Hunter College, New York City, from 1966 until his death. His books are The Green Wall (1957), Saint Judas (1959), The Branch Will Not Break (1963), Shall We Gather at the River? (1968), Collected Poems (1971), Two Citizens (1973), To a Blossoming Pear Tree (1977), and This Journey (1982). His Collected Prose appeared in 1983, and A Secret Field, extracts from his journals, in 1985. Wright's career falls into three phases: the formalist verse of his two earliest volumes, the ‘deep image’ phase of his middle years, and a muted romantic lyricism at the last. Wright's is a quiet, undeclamatory voice whose wistful questioning egocentrism well serves his scrutiny of the social world, of nature, and the unconscious, in which the dominant pronoun ‘I’ is a patient and sympathetic bearer of feeling. The formalism of his first work was radically modified by his friendship with Robert Bly and their common interest in foreign poetry, especially German expressionism and Spanish surrealism. With Bly, Wright produced translations of the German Georg Trakl, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, and Hermann HesseM. If a sense of the joy of being is mutedly present in Wright's late work, the bitter complaint of industrial destitution wrought on the American interior landscape in a poem such as ‘Ohioan Pastoral’ reflects the sense of social concern of this poet reared during the Great Depression.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Woking Surrey to Æ