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Weldon Kees Portrait

Born in Beatrice, Nebraska, Weldon Kees graduated from the University of Nebraska. After an editorial job with the Federal Writers' Project in Lincoln, he moved to Denver to direct its bibliographic center. A few years later, he left for New York, where he earned a living for a while writing for Time magazine, until he moved to San Francisco in 1951. He also became a committed Trotskyite, the Marxist group cast out of the official Communist Party. Kees was not only a poet—one often cynical about American middle class values—but also a painter, a pianist, and a jazz composer. In California, he also collaborated with psychiatrist Jurgen Ruesch on the book Non-Verbal Communication, which is illustrated with Kees's photographs. Little known as a poet during his own life, he disappeared in 1955 and is presumed to have committed suicide; his car was found abandoned on the approach to Golden Gate Bridge, but his body itself was never found. His fictional satire of scholarly life, Fall Quarter, was written in the 1930s but not published until 1990.