James L. White was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1936. When he was sixteen, he began a career in ballet, training as a classical dancer and attending the American Ballet Theater School. After dancing professionally for ten years, he attended Indiana University and Colorado State University, where he received an MA in literary criticism.
After graduate school, White taught poetry in schools in the Navajo Nation, then went on to develop a creative writing program for Chippewa children through the Minnesota Writers in the Schools Program.
White’s four poetry collections are The Salt Ecstasies (Graywolf Press, 1982), The Del Rio Hotel (Territorial Press, 1975), A Crow’s Story of Deer (Capra Press, 1974), and Divorce Proceedings (Dakota Press, 1972). Many poets cite White as an influence; in his introduction to the 2010 edition of Salt Ecstasies, Mark Doty writes, “These bold and indelible poems would open new prospects for many poets to come.” Carl Phillips also notes, “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.”
In 1978, White received the Bush Foundation Fellowship for poetry. He died of cardiovascular disease in Minnesota on July 13, 1981.
The Salt Ecstasies (Graywolf Press, 1982)
The Del Rio Hotel (Territorial Press, 1975)
A Crow’s Story of Deer (Capra Press, 1974)
Divorce Proceedings (Dakota Press, 1972)