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Louis Zukofsky Portrait

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. An "Objectivists" Anthology appeared the following year. The collections included Oppen, Pound, Rakosi, Rexroth, Reznikoff, Williams, and Zukofsky himself. All the contributors shared at least a partial interest in the material presence of the poem and in its linguisticality. Zukofsky himself added a strong belief in historically contextualized poetry and a highly developed musical sense. Read aloud, Zukofsky's poems sometimes show how he used sound effects to add additional layers of meaning to the text. In addition to All: The Collected Shorter Poems, Zukofsky's writing includes one of the major book-length poem sequences of American modernism, "A,” and a massive theoretical work, Bottom: On Shakespeare. He collaborated with his wife Celia on a translation of Catullus, and she wrote musical settings for some of his lyrics.