Autobiography as Cultural Theory
Wright’s multiculturalism has strong autobiographical resonances. Of Irish, African, and Native American descent, Wright grew up in the ethnically diverse settings of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Pedro, California, making frequent trips to Mexico as part of his work as a minor-league baseball player in the early 1950’s. His early poems, collected in The Homecoming Singer (1971), best exemplify the way in which autobiographical experience can serve as a catalyst for constructing an African American cultural and literary tradition. “A Non-Birthday Poem for My Father,” “Origins,” and “The Hunting-Trip Cook” are homages to Mercer Murphy Wright, Wright’s biological father, and to his foster father, Frankie Faucett, that serve as occasions for examining the responsibilities with which the dead charge the living. Such ancestral charges are what connect presences from Wright’s personal past to “the intense communal daring” of Crispus Attucks and W. E. B. Du Bois.
The Homecoming Singer also sketches geographies to which Wright will return throughout his work. The Southwest and California emerge as important places of origin and communion, as does Mexico. “Morning, Leaving Calle Gigantes,” “Chapultepec Castle,” “Jalapeña Gypsies,” and “Bosques de Chapultepec” are chronicles of the time Wright spent in Guadalajara and Jalapa, Mexico, between 1968, the year in which he married Lois Silber, and 1971. In...
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