Born and raised in Illinois, MacLeish was educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School. He lived in Paris in the early 1920s after frontline service in World War I. On the editorial board of Fortune magazine in the 1930s, MacLeish served as both Librarian of Congress and Assistant Secretary of State in the Roosevelt administration. Despite the self-sufficiency of poetic form he argues for in "Ars Poetica," he often addressed political topics in poems or radio plays. Thus he spoke out in support of the Spanish Republic, but, unlike many other Americans, never paid a price for doing so.