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.
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.
Born in Wilmington, North Carolina and raised in California, Guest earned a B.A. in Humanities in 1943 at UC Berkeley. She spent years in New York City where she became involved with the New York School poets, including Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. She was also well known for her book on the poet H.D., Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World (1984). Like the others in the New York School, Guest took issue with the closed-form New Critical aesthetics then dominating the academy.
Lyn Hejinian was born in Alameda, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and educated at Harvard. She was editor of Tuumba Press from 1976 to 1984, when it pioneered in issuing a series of fifty Language poet chapbooks. She has also been co-editor of Poetics Journal for over twenty years.
There are three overarching subjects in Natasha Trethewey’s work—history, the arts, and the social construction of her own family’s identity and experience. Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on Confederate Memorial Day, exactly 100 years after it was first celebrated. Her parents—a black mother and a white father—had been married illegally a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia.