JAY WRIGHT was bom on May 25, 1935, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of Leona Dailey and Mercer Murphy Wright. Wright attended high school in San Pedro, California, and, after graduation, served in the U.S. Army. In 1961 he received a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, briefly attended the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and attended postgraduate courses at Rutgers University, earning an M.A. in 1966.
Wright has chiefly received critical attention for his poetry. He draws on his formal education and knowledge of European literary traditions as well as the history of black Americans and anthropological studies of African and New World civilizations. Ritual and mythology also find a place in his poems.
Wright's first published volume was a small chapbook of poems, Death as History ( 1967); it received little attention, but many of the poems included in it were reprinted in The Homecoming Singer ( 1971), Wright's first major collection. The poems are greatly influenced by events in Wright's life, especially his artistic and spiritual development. Unlike other black American writers who draw on cultural connections to the agrarian South or the industrialized North, Wright uses the geography of the Southwest to relate, symbolically, the social alienation experienced by blacks in America.
Many of the themes found in The Homecoming Singer reappear in Soothsayers and Omens ( 1976) and Dimensions of History ( 1976). These volumes reflect Wright's travels in Mexico and in Scotland, where he stayed from 1971 to 1973 as a Fellow in Creative Writing at Dundee University.The poems in these two collections unite a quest for personal identity with an exploration of a mythological world view.
It was not until the publication of The Double Invention of Komo ( 1980), however, that Wright's ambitious themes were more successfully synthesized into a historical ritualized mythology. This long and complex poem utilizes a cosmogony conceived by the Komo, an all-male society that exists within