Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Galway Kinnell was educated at Princeton and the University of Rochester. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-1946 and then went on to do civil rights field work in Louisiana for the Congress on Racial Equality.
Born in Fresno, California, Lawson Inada as a child spent World War II in a concentration camp with his family. In a period of racist hysteria, constitutional guarantees were set aside, and Japanese Americans were interned for the duration of the war. He would later write of the experience in Before the War: Poems as They Happened (1971). Lawson was then educated at Berkeley and Fresno State College, followed by studies in creative writing at the University of Iowa and the University of Oregon. He teaches at Southern Oregon State College.
Joseph Kalar was born in Merritt, Minnesota, the second son in a family that would eventually comprise nine boys and a girl who died as an infant. The family lived for a time in a tarpaper shack in a mining village. Kalar completed the training program at Bemidji Teachers College and then taught for a year in the remote town of Wayland. Feeling restless and isolated, from 1928-1930 he travelled across the country taking odd jobs and reporting to the radical journal New Masses on conditions everywhere he went.
The introduction to Bob Kaufman's selected poems tells us that he was born in New Orleans; his father, who was half African American and half Jewish, worked as a Pullman porter for the railroad that ran between New Orleans and Chicago. His mother, a black woman from an old Martinique family, the Vignes, was a schoolteacher. "His Jewish surname and Creole-like features," the introduction notes, "were shared with twelve brothers and sisters . . .
Robert Lowell grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, as part of a family with a distinguished literary heritage. Poets James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell were among his ancestors. This heritage no doubt made his own father's limitations—he was a business failure after his retirement from the U.S. Navy—seem more severe. Lowell enrolled at Harvard, much as the family expected, but after the first of his lifelong series of emotional breakdowns and periods of manic behavior, he transferred to Kenyon College in 1937.
Born in a Polish ghetto, Victor Jeremy Jerome subsequently moved to London and from there came to New York. He joined the Communist Party in 1927 and in 1937 he became chairman of the U.S. Communist Party’s Cultural Commission and also began editing The Communist, which later became Political Affairs, the party's chief political journal. Arrested under the highly controversial Smith Act in 1951, he was convicted—on the inappropriate basis of his critical writings—of conspiracy to advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and served three years in prison.
Born in New York City and educated at Bard College and Columbia, Hecht served in Europe and Japan in the U.S. army. He taught for a number of years at the University of Rochester and Georgetown University. Hecht wrote several books of criticism, including a study of W.H. Auden, and translated both classical and contemporary writers. Often learned and witty in his poetry, he has occasionally taken up more difficult subjects, as with the Holocaust poems "More Light!
Robert Hayden was born Asa Bundy Sheffey to a couple in financial and personal difficulty. When they separated, Hayden was taken in by a foster family and received a new name. The new family, unfortunately, was equally conflicted, and Hayden's childhood—spent in the Detroit ghetto called "Paradise Valley"—was frequently traumatic. Reading was a form of escape, but it also prepared him for a career. He enrolled at Detroit City College but left in 1936 to research black history and culture, including Michigan's Underground Railroad, for the Federal Writers' Project.
Carl Sadakichi Hartmann was born on an island in Nagasaki Harbor in Japan, of a Japanese mother and German father. His father sent him to the U. S. in 1882, and he was naturalized in 1894. His Conversations with Walt Whitman (1895) apparently grows out of meetings they had late in Whitman's life. Hartmann wrote a number of verse and prose plays as well as numerous poems that helped shape the imagist movement.
Born in San Francisco and raised in San Rafael, California, Robert Hass was educated at St. Mary's College and at Stanford University, where he received a Ph.D. In addition to six books of poetry, he has written criticism and translated European poets into English, including several volumes by Czeslaw Milosz. He has also published The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (1994) and has taught at several schools, including Buffalo and Berkeley.