Jay Wright Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How does Jay Wright explore links between African, African American, and other cultures?

How does Wright use myth to convey his themes?

How does Wright use musical techniques?

In “The Albuquerque Graveyard,” how does Wright attempt to solidify the place of African Americans in Western culture?

How have Wright’s poetic techniques changed over the course of his career?

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Jay Wright has published several plays in Hambone, Callaloo, and Southern Review. He has also written essays on African American poetry and poetics, the most important of which is “Desire’s Design, Vision’s Resonance: Black Poetry’s Ritual and Historical Voice,” which appeared in Callaloo in 1987.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Jay Wright’s poetic vision is unique in its cross-cultural approach to African American spiritual and intellectual history. He has been called one of the most original and powerful voices in contemporary American poetry. Though critical acclaim of his work has been slow in coming, he has received a number of prestigious awards: an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974; an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature in 1981; an Oscar Williams and Gene Derwood Writing Award in 1985; a MacArthur Fellowship that spanned the years 1986-1991; and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1996. He received the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 2000, Yale University’s Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 2005, and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Lifetime Achievement in 2006.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Callaloo 6 (Fall, 1983). This special issue includes an excellent interview in which Wright outlines the theories behind his poetry. It also contains a general introduction to Wright’s poetry by Robert B. Stepto, a rather superficial assessment of his early poetry by Gerald Barrax, and detailed commentary by Vera M. Kutzinski on the Benjamin Banneker poems.

Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. This critical look at the rise of modern anthropology and its entwinement with literature is useful background reading for some of Wright’s main sources, notably Marcel Griaule and his team. Equally relevant are Clifford’s comments on the West’s representation of other cultures and the negotiation of cultural differences.

Harris, Wilson. The Womb of Space: The Cross-Cultural Imagination. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983. While this study includes a brief discussion of The Double Invention of Komo, it is valuable primarily for its conceptualization of the literary dynamics of “the cross-cultural imagination.” Though Wright’s debt is to Harris’s earlier writings, this book summarizes the main concepts and ideas that have guided Harris’s thinking since the beginning of his career.


(The entire section is 440 words.)