Albert Goldbarth was born in Chicago and educated at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at the University of Iowa. He taught for a decade at the University of Texas at Austin and now teaches at Wichita State University in Kansas. His poems are rich with the history of the language and manage to extract both dark and witty meaning from that very history. The erudition on display is both dazzling and compulsive, and the unsteady line between the two impulses provides part of the pleasure of his work.
Charles Bernstein was born in New York City and educated at Harvard. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, he observed about his work, "It’s true that, on the one hand, I mock and destabilize the foundation of a commitment to lyric poetry as an address toward truth or toward sincerity. But, on the other hand, if you’re interested in theory as a stable expository mode of knowledge production or critique moving toward truth, again, I should be banned from your republic.
Li-Young Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who sought to make himself emperor. Lee's father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong, then relocated his family to Indonesia. His father spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959, the Lee family fled Indonesia to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five year journey through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States.
Ginsberg was at once one of the major poets of the second half of the twentieth century and a public figure who entreated his country by way of his poetry to realize its full democratic potential. Ginsberg was never actually militant or aggressive. Learned in Zen Buddhism and Western mysticism, his presence exuded rather an expansive and insistent gentleness.
Frost was born and spent his first eleven years in San Francisco. At that point, his father, a journalist, died and the family moved to New England. Frost was educated at Dartmouth and Harvard and for a time made an effort to run a poultry farm in New Hampshire. But in 1912 he went to England, where he published his first book, A Boy's Will, the following year. With Ezra Pound's help, he was able to publish his next volume in the United States, after which he returned and made another New Hampshire farm his home, supporting himself by regular college teaching.
Sol Funaroff was born of Russian parents; his father died in Palestine after his family fled across Europe. While Funaroff's mother was working in a sweatshop in 1915, the tenement they lived in on New York's East Side slums burned down. Neighbors carried him gasping from the building, but his lungs were weak thereafter. As a child, he and his brother sold candy and fruit to garment workers. Later he worked in a matzo factory and in an upholstery shop.
John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York. He grew up on a farm in nearby Sodus and was educated at Harvard and Columbia. After a Fulbright fellowship that took him to France, he stayed on and worked as an art critic for several newspapers and magazines, finally returning to become executive editor of Art News from 1965 to 1972.
John Ashbery has accomplished a great deal in his lifetime as a poet in comparison to his contemporaries. He stresses that language is something to be challenged and played with. He has withstood the twentieth-century as a powerful writer and influencer. Ashbery won the Yale Younger poets prize in 1956 for Some Trees, which was his first published book. He also won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976 for Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which became a huge success for Ashbery. With more awards and grants under his belt, Ashbery continues to awe his supporters.
The son of former slaves, Paul Laurence Dunbar was born and grew up in Dayton, Ohio. His father had escaped from Kentucky to serve in a Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War. He began writing poetry in high school and eventually acquired a large multiracial audience. By late nineteenth century standards, Dunbar's work was steadfast both in its black pride and its rejection of racism. Yet during the Harlem Renaissance, his dialect poetry would win praise from Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, while meeting severe criticism from James Weldon Johnson and others.
Born Everett Leroy Jones to a middle-class family in Newark, New Jersey, the son of a postal employee and social worker, Amiri Baraka was educated at Rutgers, Howard, and Columbia universities. His work and his system of beliefs have gone through several distinct phases. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was active among Beat writers on New York's Lower East Side, writing his own poetry and plays and editing two period magazines, Yugen and Floating Bear.
Berryman was born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma. At age twelve, after his family had moved to Florida, Berryman's father shot himself to death outside his son's window. His surname comes from his mother's second marriage, after the family moved to New York. Berryman was educated at Columbia and Cambridge Universities and himself became an influential teacher at Harvard, Princeton, and Minnesota. But he struggled with alcoholism and madness throughout his life. In the end, he leapt to his death from a bridge in Minneapolis.