Born and raised in New York City, Michael Palmer was educated at Harvard and lived on the East Coast before moving to San Francisco. The most lyrical of the well-known writers associated with Language poetry—he is sometimes considered one of the movement's precursors—Palmer shares their interest in fragmented and disjunctive narrativity, depersonalized speakers, and investigations of how language works as an independent system of meanings. But musicality and wit, along with a regular haunting by vestigial narrativity, distinguish his work from many others in the movement.
Welton Smith, who was born in Houston, Texas, is the author of Penetration (1972), a collection of poems, and The Roach Riders, a play. His poem sequence "Malcolm," which was included in the historic 1968 Black Arts collection Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, edited by Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka, is one of a number of elegies written after Malcolm X was killed in 1965. Its tonal shifts help make it one of the most memorable and one of the more inventive poems to come out of the Black Arts movement.
Born in San Francisco and raised on a farm north of Seattle, Gary Snyder was educated at Reed College, where he studied literature, Buddhist philosophy, and Native American mythology. He then worked as a logger and spent summers as a forest-fire lookout in Oregon, Washington, and California. Involved with the Beat writers in San Francisco in the mid-1950s, he made a major change in his life in 1956, moving to Japan to study Zen Buddhism. Except for some shipboard work, he remained there for twelve years.
Theodore Roethke was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, where his family managed greenhouses that were the subject of several of his early lyrics. In these densely nurtured spaces, Roethke began to forge a kind of mystical animism that stayed with him throughout his career. From these contained, miniature natural worlds, embodying a whole range of human sexual and generative impulses, he would eventually reach outward to the large scale visionary landscape poems of "North American Sequence," landscapes at once meticulously observed and psychologically suggestive.
Wendy Rose was born in Oakland, California, of Hopi and Miwok ancestry. She attended Contra Costa College and the University of California at Berkeley and since then has taught Native American Studies at several colleges, including the University of California at Berkeley. She is an anthropologist and has served as the editor of American Indian Quarterly, as well as a poet and an artist. She presently teaches at Fresno City College and sometimes writes under the pseudonym Chiron Khanshendel.
Born Solomon Fishman in New York, Edwin Rolfe grew up on Coney Island. He took the pen name Rolfe in high school and eventually adopted it as his only name. Rolfe began writing revolutionary poems while he was still in high school and was soon publishing them in the Party's newspaper, Daily Worker.
Carolyn Rodgers grew up in Chicago’s South Side, where her intellectual and political vision was shaped in part by the Organization of Black African Culture and by poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Her poetry of the late 1960s voices the revolutionary nationalism of the Black Arts movement, but in a free-verse style with street slang that some of the male leaders of the movement found inappropriate for a woman. Even in these early poems, moreover, she registers notable tension between her revolutionary program and African American culture's more traditional commitments.
Although much of Robinson's work was done before American modernism's heyday, in several respects his poetry heralds elements of what was to come. Best known for his portraits of individuals, portraits often comparable to those done by Edgar Lee Masters, he is actually more versatile, writing dramatic monologues and blank verse narratives of considerable length. If his use of the vernacular and the absence of sentimentality in some of his portraits helps usher in modernism, so does a quality of indirection and irresolution in other poems.
Born in Galesburg, Illinois, and educated at Lombard College, Carl Sandburg for many years was drawn both to America's most radical union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and also to international socialism. The great poems of his first volume, Chicago Poems (1914), and of the next several years, some of them uncollected or unpublished, reflect his deep commitment to working people and his strong left politics, including his initial opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I and his interest in African American culture.
For several decades Langston Hughes was simultaneously the foremost African American poet and the premier poet of the American Left. Without understanding that double identity and dual cultural role, there is little chance of winning a full or fair appreciation of his life and work. Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, but grew up mainly in Lawrence, Kansas. Before enrolling at the historically black Lincoln University, he had worked at numerous menial jobs but also seen Africa, Mexico, and Paris. He would later make trips to the Soviet Union and to Spain during the Spanish Civil War.