An enrolled member of the Mesquakie Nation of central Iowa, Ray Young Bear grew up on the tribal lands near Tama. He is not only a poet and a novelist but also a performing artist. With his wife Stella, whose bead work is depicted on the cover of The Invisible Musician (1990), he founded the Black Eagle Child Dance Troup, for which Young Bear plays drums. Under the Woodland Singers title, they have recorded traditional Native American songs.
Born in New York of Russian immigrant parents and raised on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Louis Zukofsky's childhood reading was done in Yiddish. He was educated at Columbia University. Earning money teaching English at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, among other jobs, he began writing and publishing early on. He defined a de facto movement, whose members he called "Objectivists," when he edited a special issue of Poetry magazine in 1931; Pound had convinced the editor Harriet Monroe to let Zukofsky do the issue.
Born and raised in a steelworker's family in the steel town of Martin's Ferry, Ohio, James Wright joined the army after high school; he was sent to occupied Japan. After returning, he studied with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College and Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington, where he earned a Ph.D. He taught at the University of Minnesota, Hunter College, and the University of Delaware. In his first two books, Wright used regular meters and rhymes and often celebrated the social outsiders of the small towns and farms near where he grew up.
Arthur Yvor Winters was born in Chicago. His first publications were as an imagist poet, and his work was much admired in the 1920s. The Magpie's Shadow (1922) is composed entirely of one-line poems, six syllables to the line. But even as a young poet he thought about critical matters. His 1924 essay, "The Testament of a Stone," about the poetic image, was important enough for the editors of Secession to devote an entire issue to it. Hart Crane was a contemporary and a friend, but one whose excess Winters found disturbing. He felt Williams's free verse was erratic.
Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, educated at Davidson College, the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, and the University of Rome, Charles Wright is currently a professor in the Writing Program at the University of Virginia. Wright's interest in poetry was quickened by a tour of duty in the U.S. Army Intelligence Service in Italy in 1957. He became an admirer of Ezra Pound and Italian poets like Eugenio Montale whose work he translated in 1979, and Cesare Pavese, whose rich sonority his own poetic line carries over into English.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Grafton, Massachusetts, Frank O'Hara served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific from 1944-1946. He was educated at Harvard and the University of Michigan, after which he served as associate curator at New York's Museum of Modern Art and editor of Art News.
Frank O’Hara’s writing has an air of whimsy to it, for he felt that writing was something one must innately feel and write spontaneously. His style is relaxed and casual, yet still complicated and intricate. It has been said that he did not even keep copies of his work and many of his works were later published after his death because his friends or family had copies. He would write when inspiration hit; his work Lunch Poems was written while he ate lunch. He was not only a poet but also an art critic.
Born in Pasco, Washington, Ron Silliman grew up in Albany, California, just north of Berkeley. He was educated at Merritt College, San Francisco State University, and the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked as an organizer in prisoner and tenant movements, as well as a lobbyist, teacher, and college administrator. In the 1970s, he first edited Labyrinth for the Committee for Prisoner Humanity and Justice and then edited the Tenderloin Times for San Francisco's Central City Hospital House.
Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, Robert Pinsky was educated at Rutgers University and Stanford University. In California, he worked with poet-critic Ivor Winters and earned a Ph.D. He has taught at several schools, translated Dante's Inferno, and published both criticism and poetry. Pinsky generally uses regular stanzas and traditional forms, modifying them when he wishes. He has drawn both from his own experience and, as with "The Unseen" and "Shirt," from modern history, balancing a will to reason with spiritual inclinations.
Melvin B. Tolson was born in Moberly, Missouri, the son of a Methodist Episcopalian minister. The family moved occasionally, as the father was assigned to new congregations. Tolson wrote poems as a child, publishing one about the sinking of the Titanic at age fourteen in an Iowa newspaper, but it was not until after graduating from Lincoln University and teaching at Wiley College in Texas for most of the 1920s that he became a serious poet.