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.
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.
Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a well-known family—her father was a lawyer—Emily Dickinson was educated at Amherst Academy and enrolled in what was then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, but returned home after a year. Settling in her family home in 1848, she became uneasy in public places and thus rarely went out. Visitors were also uncommon. But her creative life was unfailingly intense, and she maintained contact with others in letters that are so crafted many consider them prose poems.
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.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop's childhood was structured around a sequence of tragedies. Her father died when she was less than one year old. Her mother endured a series of emotional breakdowns and was permanently institutionalized when Bishop was five years old; they never saw each other again. At that point, she was living in Nova Scotia, but after a few years her grandparents returned with her to Worcester. Then she lived with an aunt, meanwhile suffering from asthma and other illnesses.
Fearing was born in Oak Park, Illinois, now a Chicago neighborhood. His father was an attorney, though the family broke up a year after Fearing was born and he moved in with an aunt. He was educated at the Universities of Illinois and Wisconsin and moved to New York in 1924. There he supported himself with a series of brief jobs, usually only working at most for a few months. He sold pants in a department store, worked for the WPA, for Time magazine, for the United Jewish Appeal, and for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.
William Bronk spent all his life in upstate New York in the small town of Hudson Falls; he lived in the family home, a Victorian house, and managed the business, a retail fuel and building supply firm that he inherited from his father, from 1945 until the mid-1970s. Bronk was born nearby in Fort Edward and educated at Dartmouth. He served as an army historian during World War II and wrote A History of the Eastern Defense Command and of the Defense of the Atlantic Coast of the United States in the Second World War (1945).
Robert Bly was born in Madison, a town in rural Minnesota, where he has lived most of his life. He was educated at St Olaf's College and at Harvard, thereafter enrolling in the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. From 1944 to 1946, Bly served in the Navy. In addition to his poetry, he has done a number of translations, including poetry by Neruda, Vallejo, and Rilke, and edited a continuing journal renamed after each decade——The Fifties, The Sixties, etc. He organized antiwar poetry readings during the Vietnam War.
Born in New York City, Gregory Corso had a volatile life and career. His childhood was spent in a series of foster homes and sometimes on the street. To survive, he took up petty theft and ended up in prison from 1947-1950. On release, he worked as a manual laborer, an employee of the San Francisco Examiner, and a merchant seaman. In the mid-1950s, he became linked with the Beat writers and achieved some fame through his energetic poetry readings. He traveled widely in Europe and Mexico, often writing his irreverent, histrionic poems on the wing.