Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, White attended Indiana University and Colorado State University where he attained an MA in Literary Criticism.
White taught as a poet in the schools on the Navajo Indian Reservation and in Minnesota public schools as part of a pilot program by COMPAS, directed by Molly LaBerge Taylor. He also taught with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
While teaching, White edited the poetry collections Time of the Indian (1976), which featured the poetry of Indian schoolchildren, and First Skin Around Me (1976), which featured the work of contemporary Indian writers including Joy Harjo and Duane Niatum.
His own books of poetry include the much lauded book The Salt Ecstasies, published in 1982 after his death by Graywolf Press.
White died of heart disease in 1982 at the age of 45.
White had a tremendous influence on many writers as a mentor and friend. In her book Wild Mind, the author Natalie Goldberg credits White with giving her "permission" to be a poet. Others were influenced by the groundbreaking content of White's poetry. Mark Doty credits White as an early influence on his work and has written poetry in his honor. The poet Carl Phillips has written that White's The Salt Ecstasies was the first book he read that "spoke with disarming honesty about gay desire, desire generally, sex specifically." He credits White's book as a "crucial voice" he encountered as he began as a poet.
Soon after White's death a literary quarterly of Gay men's writing was inaugurated under the name James White Review. It was first published in Minneapolis in 1983 and continued until 2005 when the Lambda Literary Foundation, its second publisher, stopped publication. The White Crane Institute is the current holder of the archives of the review and is considering options for future issues of the review.
In the Spring of 2008, the White Crane Institute and Phil Willkie announced the establishment of a biennial Gay men's poetry prize in honor of White, who was openly gay. The White Crane/James White Poetry Prize is a manuscript prize honoring "excellence in Gay Male Poetry." The judge for the inaugural year of the prize was the poet Mark Doty.
Burial: Washington Park East Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA, Plot: Section J
The Salt Ecstasies: Poems (The Graywolf Poetry Re/View) by James L. White, Introduction by Mark Doty
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press (June 22, 2010)
Amazon: The Salt Ecstasies: Poems (The Graywolf Poetry Re/View)
“White’s was a crucial voice to encounter, for what it confirmed as possible—longing, homosexual longing, the expression of that longing in a poem. I think it’s arguable that Dante’s Inferno is better literature, but Dante couldn’t have given me what White did.” —CARL PHILLIPS, from Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of PoetryThe powerful and influential last poems of an unsung master, now again available, with a new introduction by National Book Award winner Mark Doty
James L. White’s The Salt Ecstasies—originally published in 1982, shortly after White’s untimely death—has earned a reputation for its artful and explicit expression of love and desire. In this new edition, with an introduction by Mark Doty and previously unpublished works by White, his invaluable poetry is again available—clear, passionate, and hard-earned.
The Salt Ecstasies is a new book in the Graywolf Poetry Re/View Series, edited by Doty, dedicated to bringing essential books of contemporary American poetry back into print.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/2825419.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.