Born in a farmhouse near Whiteville, North Carolina, the son of a tobacco farmer, Archie Randolph Ammons served on a Navy destroyer escort in World War II. He studied biology and chemistry at Wake Forest College in his home state and went on to literary studies at Berkeley. In 1964, after working for almost a decade as an executive at a glassmaking firm, he took a teaching job at Cornell University.
Paul Blackburn was born in St. Albans, Vermont. His parents separated when he was three, and he grew up with his mother's parents until his mother took him to New York's Greenwich Village at age fourteen. After a stint in the Army, he enrolled at New York University but then transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where he started a correspondence with Ezra Pound, then incarcerated at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, who encouraged his poetry writing. In New York, Blackburn pursued an interest in Provençal troubadour poets, translating them into English.
John Beecher was born in New York, the great-great-nephew of Abolitionists Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher; it was a heritage his life would honor. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father was a U.S. Steel executive, but Beecher entered the industry at the bottom. From age 16, he worked twelve-hour shifts on the open hearth furnaces. Educated at Cornell, Alabama, Harvard, and North Carolina, Beecher worked eight years during the New Deal era as a field administrator of social programs devoted to sharecroppers and migrant workers. He then took up a teaching career.
Born in a small Ohio town, Hart Crane grew up in Cleveland. He went to New York after leaving high school, but ended up returning to Cleveland until 1923, along the way accumulating work experience in advertising agencies, a newspaper, and in his father's businesses. He faced continual difficulty and much stress supporting himself and had to rely on relatives and a benefactor.
T. S. Eliot grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He was educated first at Harvard University and then at Oxford University, with a break at the Sorbonne in Paris between his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Boston. He moved to England and began a strained marriage with Vivian Haigh-Wood in 1915. He supported himself by working at Lloyd's Bank in London from 1917-1925, then joined a publishing firm. In 1927, he became a British citizen and joined the Anglican Church. He was drawn to European fascism in the 1930s, but unlike Pound remained uninvolved in politics.
Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, near where he grew up on a small farm. As a young child he suffered two losses, that of his father and that of his left eye. He was raised by his mother, who worked as a public health nurse. Creeley enrolled at Harvard but took a leave to be an ambulance driver for the American Field Service toward the end of World War II. He was in the India-Burma area from 1944-1945. He returned to Harvard but left without his degree, taking up subsistence farming for a time in New Hampshire.
Anita Endrezze was born in Long Beach, California, of Yaqui and European ancestry. An artist as well as a poet and short story writer, her paintings and illustrations have been reproduced in a number of publications and been exhibited both in the U.S. and in Europe. She has also written a novel for children. She has worked part-time for Washington State as a poet-in-residence, for the Spokane chapter of the Audubon Society, and edited the Indian Artists Guild newsletter. Her books include At the Helm of Twilight (1992) and The Humming of Stars and Bees (1998).
Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit; her father was a tool and die maker, while her mother was a journalist. She studied both international relations at Michigan State University and creative writing at Bowling Green State University. From 1978-1980 she worked as a reporter and human rights activist in El Salvador; "The Colonel" describes a meeting with a Salvadoran military officer. She went on to spend time in South Africa. She has thus been interested both in the impact of U.S. diplomacy and in local revolutionary movements.
Born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Charles Henri Ford was first known as the editor of Blues: A Magazine of Verse (1929-30), after which he lived in Paris for several years. He edited the beautiful surrealist magazine View in New York from 1940-47 and lived in Italy from 1952-57. He began publishing his own surrealist poetry in the 1930s and began to exhibit his paintings worldwide in the 1950s.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kay Boyle studied architecture at Parson's School of Fine and Applied Arts in New York and elsewhere, took courses at Columbia, and studied violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She lived mostly in France from 1923 to 1941, where she was well known among the American expatriate community. Back in the U.S., she was active in progressive movements for decades and was blacklisted during the McCarthy period.