Kenneth Fearing

Fearing was born in Oak Park, Illinois, now a Chicago neighborhood. His father was an attorney, though the family broke up a year after Fearing was born and he moved in with an aunt. He was educated at the Universities of Illinois and Wisconsin and moved to New York in 1924. There he supported himself with a series of brief jobs, usually only working at most for a few months. He sold pants in a department store, worked for the WPA, for Time magazine, for the United Jewish Appeal, and for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.

Sterling A. Brown

Sterling A. Brown was born and raised in the strictly segregated Washington, D.C., of the first decades of the century. His family was middle class (his father was a professor of religion), and he was educated at Williams College and Harvard. There he read the new American poetry of early modernism and was struck especially by the use of the vernacular in Frost, Sandburg, and others. To this he would add knowledge of black folk traditions sought out in the southern countryside during several college teaching jobs in the 1920s.

Gladys Casely-Hayford

Aqua Laluah is the pen name of Gladys May Casely-Hayford, an American national born in Axim, Gold Coast (now Ghana), West Africa. Her father was a politician and lawyer, her mother a teacher. Casely-Hanford was educated in Sierra Leone and in Wales. In the 1920s she danced with a jazz band in Germany; she also began publishing poems in journals like Opportunity, Atlantic Monthly, and Philadelphia Tribune under her pseudonym. Her one collection is Take 'um so (1948). She died of black water fever in 1950.  

William Bronk

William Bronk spent all his life in upstate New York in the small town of Hudson Falls; he lived in the family home, a Victorian house, and managed the business, a retail fuel and building supply firm that he inherited from his father, from 1945 until the mid-1970s. Bronk was born nearby in Fort Edward and educated at Dartmouth. He served as an army historian during World War II and wrote A History of the Eastern Defense Command and of the Defense of the Atlantic Coast of the United States in the Second World War (1945).

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie's visibility and reputation increased so rapidly in the 1990s that at times he seemed more a natural phenomenon, like a summer thunderstorm, than a mere writer. But an astonishingly inventive writer he is. The son of a Spokane father and a part-Coeur d'Alene mother, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He was educated first at Gonzaga University in Spokane and then at Washington State University in Pullman; he now lives in Seattle.

Robert Bly

Robert Bly was born in Madison, a town in rural Minnesota, where he has lived most of his life. He was educated at St Olaf's College and at Harvard, thereafter enrolling in the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. From 1944 to 1946, Bly served in the Navy. In addition to his poetry, he has done a number of translations, including poetry by Neruda, Vallejo, and Rilke, and edited a continuing journal renamed after each decade——The Fifties, The Sixties, etc. He organized antiwar poetry readings during the Vietnam War.

Arna Bontemps

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Arna Bontemps grew up in California and was educated at Pacific Union College. His father was a bricklayer and his mother a teacher. After college he moved to Harlem to teach at the Seventh Day Adventist academy, arriving at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry began to win awards, but the Adventists reassigned him to Oakwood Junior College in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1931. Although he was in conflict with conservative school officials, the experience of the South helped inspire some of his best work.

Gregory Corso

Born in New York City, Gregory Corso had a volatile life and career. His childhood was spent in a series of foster homes and sometimes on the street. To survive, he took up petty theft and ended up in prison from 1947-1950. On release, he worked as a manual laborer, an employee of the San Francisco Examiner, and a merchant seaman. In the mid-1950s, he became linked with the Beat writers and achieved some fame through his energetic poetry readings. He traveled widely in Europe and Mexico, often writing his irreverent, histrionic poems on the wing.

A. R. Ammons

Born in a farmhouse near Whiteville, North Carolina, the son of a tobacco farmer, Archie Randolph Ammons served on a Navy destroyer escort in World War II. He studied biology and chemistry at Wake Forest College in his home state and went on to literary studies at Berkeley. In 1964, after working for almost a decade as an executive at a glassmaking firm, he took a teaching job at Cornell University.

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn was born in St. Albans, Vermont. His parents separated when he was three, and he grew up with his mother's parents until his mother took him to New York's Greenwich Village at age fourteen. After a stint in the Army, he enrolled at New York University but then transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where he started a correspondence with Ezra Pound, then incarcerated at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, who encouraged his poetry writing. In New York, Blackburn pursued an interest in Provençal troubadour poets, translating them into English.