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The Poetry of James Wright, The Poetry of James Wright, 0817304967, 0-8173-0496-7, 978-0-8173-0496-6, 9780817304966,

The Poetry of James Wright
by Andrew Elkins

Trade Cloth
1991. 288 pp.
Price:  $44.95 s

 In The Poetry of James Wright the author traces Wright’s formal evolution and concentrates on his consistent themes: the artist’s role in society, the artist’s search for poetic and personal identities, the power of poetry as fortification against the onslaughts of time, and the definition of a good and humane action.

            Charting the poet’s evolution from his first book, The Green Wall, to the last collections, This Journey, Elkins discusses one major book I each chapter, explicating the more important poems in detail and explaining how each volume is part of a progression from youthful imitator to mature innovator. Wright’s individual struggle, taking place as it did in the last half of the 20th century in America, dramatizes the central problems of the creative individual in a late industrial society who is trying to turn a life into are.
            Wright worked in the great tradition of the adamant individualists in our literary heritage, and, like all of his formidable ancestors, he refused to trust the socialized self he found attached to his soul, refused to be diminished or circumscribed by any society’s definition of himself. The effect of reading and studying his complete work is the recognition that Wright is a major 20th century American poet whose apparent simplicity and occasional sentimentality can obscure the complexity and maturity of his courageous confrontation with the problems of living and writhing in contemporary America.


 Andrew Elkins is Associate Professor of English at Chadron State College, Chadron, Nebraska.

 “Andrew Elkin’s perspective on this important American poet is both fresh and interesting. He contributes in important ways to our understanding of James Wright.”

—Peter Stitt
The Gettysburg Review

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature, 1989

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