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James Wright: A Life in Poetry by Jonathan Blunk

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James Wright (1927-1980) was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who grew up in a working class family in Martins Ferry, Ohio, across the river from West Virginia. This biography is exceptional in its depth. Jonathan Blunk was writing a thesis at Cornell on Wright at the time of Wright’s death in 1980. Ten years later he began recording more than 300 hours of interviews with people close to Wright, and in 2002 he began to work seriously on this biography, authorized by Wright’s family that providing access to a plethora of letters and other intimate materials. “How did James Wright become one of the great poets of his time, a deep seeker of what he called ‘the pure clear word’? Blunk’s definitive, perceptive, and compassionate biography tells the full story of a representative and necessary maker. A sustaining achievement.” – Edward Hirsch. “[Wright’s] life reads like something out of a Greek myth or Puccini opera: poverty, self-destruction, drunkenness, doubt, loving friends, illicit romance, broken marriage, wondrous success, and possible madness all circling around a seemingly endless and singular devotion to the art of poetry. Poet and critic Blunk has done a commendable job in telling Wright’s story.” Blunk is a graduate of the Warren Wilson College MFA program and was a researcher at the Institute of Jazz Studies of Rutgers University. He has produced a regular radio program and additional important programs on reggae and jazz.

New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan, 2017. 496 pages with an index, notes and photos. Hardback in dust jacket