Elinor Wylie was born in New Jersey and grew up in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., the child of a prominent family. As an adult she became poetry editor of Vanity Fair and a contributing editor to The New Republic. The poems often combine exquisite craft with a powerful sense of isolation, sometimes with an aura of death. Their precision also bears comparison with imagist practice, especially with some of Amy Lowell’s and H.D.’s early poetry. After a series of heart attacks, Wylie died of a stroke at age forty-three.
Janice N. Harrington was born in Vernon, Alabama, and grew up there and in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is a poet, a children’s book author, and a professional storyteller. A former librarian, she now teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The two poems here are reprinted from her book Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007).
Claudia Rankine was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Jamaica and New York City. She was educated at Williams College and Columbia University. She has taught at Case Western Reserve University, Barnard College, University of Georgia, and in the writing program at the University of Houston. She now teaches at Pomona College. She is a poet, editor, playwright, and multimedia artist. Politically astute and invariably ironic about contemporary American life, she tracks its effects on language, institutions, and cultural understanding.
Sara Teasdale, born and raised in St. Louis and one of our most celebrated poets in her time, gradually fell out of favor after her death. The image she was willing to benefit from—that of a romantic yearning for erotic fulfillment—did not help her status during the heyday of the New Criticism. Yet she was never entirely the poet her contemporary audience preferred her to be. She wrote powerful antiwar poems—two of them reprinted here—but chose not to include them in any of her books. And her well-known poems have an easy fluency that makes them modern in a different register.
Derek Walcott was born in 1930 in the town of Castries in Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. The experience of growing up on the isolated volcanic island, an ex-British colony, has had a strong influence on Walcott's life and work. Both his grandmothers were said to have been the descendants of slaves. His father, a Bohemian watercolourist, died when Derek and his twin brother, Roderick, were only a few years old. His mother ran the town's Methodist school. He studied at St.
Timothy Steele was born in Burlington, Vermont, and educated at Stanford and Brandeis. Partly because of his early commitment to meter and rhyme when free verse dominated the contemporary scene—and partly because he has theorized the formal choices available to poets in his critical book Missing Measures: Modern Poetry and the Revolt against Meter (1990)—Steele has become a leading figure in the loosely defined New Formalist movement. Steele also wrote a textbook, All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification (1999).
Kathleen Fraser grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado, and California, graduating from Occidental College, then working in New York as an editorial assistant for Mademoiselle for a time before taking up her writing and teaching career full time. While teaching at San Francisco State University from 1972 to 1992, she directed The Poetry Center and founded The American Poetry Archives. Fraser was co-founder and co-editor, of the feminist poetics newsletter (HOW)ever.
Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in San Francisco of Chicana and Native American (Chumash) heritage. For many years she taught at University of Colorado and edited the Chicana/o journal MANGO, which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Alberto Ríos, all poets included in the present collection. Her work has long evoked the dynamics of race, sex, class, and economics in Latino culture, with a special emphasis on the impact of the dominant culture on the lives of Latina women and on the forms of resistance they have devised.