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James Wright Poetry Festival will be celebrated in Martins Ferry

ATHENS, Ohio (April 10, 2006) -- "I began in Ohio, I still dream of my home," wrote Martins Ferry native James Wright. His hometown and the Ohio Valley provided life-long inspirations to the Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Wright frequently mentioned his home area in his work.

Ohio University Eastern will celebrate the poet's life and writings during the 26th Annual James Wright Poetry Festival on Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, at the Martins Ferry Public Library.

Martins Ferry has honored James Wright with a bronze plaque in the downtown area and a street dedicated in his name, James Wright Place. While these landmarks seek to preserve his legacy, the poetry festival is a living tribute to the memory of James Wright. The festival allows the public to experience the life and creative works of the famous poet.

"The James Wright Poetry Festival is important to our area for several reasons," says Dr. Thomas Flynn, associate professor of English at the Ohio University Eastern Campus. "Ohio Valley residents can gain a better understanding of the cultural heritage of our area, hear readings by nationally renowned poets such as Campbell McGrath and Denise Duhamel, and experience the joys of writing poetry through a workshop offered at the festival".

James Wright was born in 1927 to a working-class family. Through the motivation and help from several teachers, Wright developed a life-long love of learning, literature and Latin. After his return from World War II, the G.I. Bill allowed Wright to attend Kenyon College and continue his education. Wright went on to become an educator at Hunter College. During his lifetime, he wrote and published numerous books of poetry including Shall We Gather at the River, his collected poems. His greatest achievement came in 1972 when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Although after the war Wright never lived in the Ohio Valley for an extended period of time, his experiences in the Valley provided writing material for the rest of his life. Pearl Street, the WPA Swimming Pool, Heslop Brothers Funeral Home, the former Hazel Atlas plant and the Wheeling water works are a few of the local places described in his poems.

The 26th Annual James Wright Festival begins Friday, April 28, at 7 p.m. with an opening speech by the late poet's wife, Anne Wright. On Saturday, the festival continues with a writers' workshop, readings of Wright's poetry and a catered lunch and dinner.

The cost of admission for adults is $45 in advance, $55 at the door. The cost for seniors and students is $35 in advance, $45 at the door. For additional information, contact the Martins Ferry Public Library at (740) 633-0314 or www.eastern.ohiou.edu/events/jwright.  

The 26th Annual James Wright Poetry Festival is sponsored in part by Ohio University Eastern, Ohio Arts Council, Eastern Ohio Arts Council, Belmont County Tourism Council and the Martins Ferry Public Library.

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Media Contact: Assistant Dean for Development Jan Chambers, (740) 699-2334 or chamberj@ohio.edu

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