Archibald MacLeish

Born and raised in Illinois, MacLeish was educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School. He lived in Paris in the early 1920s after frontline service in World War I. On the editorial board of Fortune magazine in the 1930s, MacLeish served as both Librarian of Congress and Assistant Secretary of State in the Roosevelt administration. Despite the self-sufficiency of poetic form he argues for in "Ars Poetica," he often addressed political topics in poems or radio plays.

Philip Levine

Born in Detroit, Michigan, and educated at Wayne State University, Levine later studied at Iowa with Robert Lowell and John Berryman. Along the way, he took a number of working-class jobs; those, and the ruined industrial landscape of Detroit, helped shaped the settings and political loyalties of his poems.

Stanley Kunitz

Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Kunitz was educated at Harvard. Declaring himself a pacifist, he served in the army during World War II cleaning latrines. He taught poetry workshops at several colleges, coedited a number of biographical dictionaries, helped to establish the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, edited the Yale Series of Younger Poets (from 1974-1976), and refined an increasingly open, almost conversational poetic voice. A 1967 trip to the Soviet Union led to his translating several poets from the Russian.  

Adrian C. Louis

Born and raised in Nevada, Louis is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Indian tribe. He was educated at Brown University, where he also went on to receive an M.A. in creative writing. A former journalist, he edited four tribal newspapers and was a founder of the Native American Press Association. Since 1984, he has taught English at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, where he lives. Louis, who writes both poetry and fiction, is at the forefront of a new generation of Native American writers.

Vachel Lindsay

Lindsay was born in his family home in Springfield, Illinois, delivered by his physician father. Lindsay spent nearly three years at Hiram College trying to fulfill his father's ambition that he become a doctor, but then convinced his parents art was his real mission. He enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute in 1901. Two years later, he transferred to the New York School of Art, but he was already spending a good deal of time writing poems.

W. S. Merwin

Merwin was born in New York and raised first in Union City, New Jersey, and then in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He studied Romance Languages at Princeton University, where he worked with poet John Berryman and poet-critic R.P. Blackmur. It was at Princeton as well, in the midst of World War II when some of his classmates were dying in Europe and the Pacific, that he began writing, but not publishing, poems of despair amid the violence of history. He would return to these themes again decades later, when the Vietnam War would come to seem a comprehensive figure for public life in America.

N. Scott Momaday

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, Momaday is well known as a poet, novelist (House Made of Dawn and The Way to Rainy Mountain), painter, playwright, and storyteller. Although his work is centered in Native American culture and history, he has written poetry about a variety of subjects, including poems about nature partly shaped by a Native American vision. His literary influences are still wider, as is apparent when he writes in rhymed syllabics. Some of his literary works include his line drawings and paintings, which have been exhibited a number of times.

Edwin Markham

Charles Edward Anson Markham was born in Oregon City, in the Oregon Territory, but his mother took him to a farm at Suisun, California, in 1856. The farm was halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco; Markham lived in California, where he became a schoolteacher, until moving to New York's Staten Island at the turn of the century and publishing a number of volumes of poetry thereafter.

James Merrill

Born and raised in New York City, James Merrill was the child of a founder of America's most famous brokerage firm. He was educated at Amherst College, a stay interrupted by a year's service in the U.S. infantry at the end of World War II. Thereafter he divided his time between Connecticut, Florida, and Greece and devoted himself to a highly successful literary career. His poetry is poised, self-conscious, elegant, and witty; its manner owes perhaps as much to the stylistic polish of Proust's and James's fiction as to other poets.

Claude McKay

Born Festus Claudius McKay to a Jamaican peasant family, McKay would write poems that inspired not only the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s but also the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. As a young child, McKay received a background in both classical and British literature and philosophy and before too long began to write poems in traditional forms. The sonnet tradition he imitated as a child he would dramatically transform as a young man in his 20s. McKay would take the romance and the consolations of the historical sonnet and replace them with a hand grenade of protest.