Born in Guthrie, Kentucky, Robert Penn Warren was educated at Vanderbilt University, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, and Oxford University. At Vanderbilt he was associated with the literary group called the Fugitives, which evolved into the Agrarian movement. The Agrarians advocated traditional values and an agricultural economy as a way of opposing industrialization and its accompanying alienation. At the time, Warren also wrote in support of racial segregation, a position he later came to regret.
Born to a Boston Brahmin family, John Wheelright's father was an architect who designed a number of the city's well-known buildings. After his father's suicide in 1912, Wheelwright underwent a religious conversion, abandoning his family's historic Unitarianism and becoming an Anglican. At Harvard from 1916-20, however, he became uneasy with his new commitment and joined the circle of Aesthetes, among them E.E. Cummings and Malcolm Cowley. Attracted to socialism, he remained at once emotionally connected to Christian myth and reluctant to embrace the uneducated masses.
Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Richard Wilbur was educated at Amherst College and Harvard. He served as a cryptographer during World War II and was stationed in Africa, France, and Italy. Since then he has taught regularly, done successful translations of Molière, coauthored an operetta (Candide, 1957) with Lillian Hellman, and written two books of children's poetry. Taking the English metaphysical poets as his models in his own work, Wilbur has excelled at polished, witty, self-contained lyrics with formal stanzas and controlled metrics.
Born in New York City, raised on Long Island, and educated at Boston University, Paul Violi worked as managing editor of Architectural Forum, on various special projects for Universal Limited Art Edition, and taught at several colleges, including New York University. He published eight books of poetry since the 1970s. "Index" is not the only poem of his that textualizes apparently innocent linguistic contexts. "Errata" achieves similar results with an invented errata page. "Marina" makes a socially unstable poem out of real or imagined boats' names.
Lucia Trent's third book of poems, Children of Fire and Shadow (1929), a collection whose often witty radicalism anticipates some of the poetry of the next decade, is her most notable. She is also known for a number of editing projects, including the magazine Contemporary Verse and some ten books, on many of which she collaborated with her husband, Ralph Cheyney. The most historically important of these may be America Arraigned (1928), a collection of poems about the Sacco and Vanzetti case.
Born in rural Kansas, William Stafford was a conscientious objector during World War II and was active in pacifist organizations. After degrees from the University of Kansas, he went on to study at the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he also earned a Ph.D., and to teach at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, from 1956 to 1979, publishing his first book, West of Your City, in 1960. Stafford's writing process, as he explained it, was to rise early and work in the quiet before others awoke.
Born Nathan Pinchback Jean Toomer in Washington, D.C., Toomer from the age of five was raised by his mother, until her death in 1909, and her father, P.B.S. Pinchback, lieutenant governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction when blacks had political power in the South. By 1919, he had enrolled and left several schools, including the Universities of Wisconsin and Chicago, New York University, and the American College of Physical Training.
Born Dorothy Rothschild and raised in New York City, Parker worked early on for a number of magazines, including Vogue and Vanity Fair. She developed a reputation for cutting wit and a devastating ability to craft the perfect phrase—a reputation enhanced when Franklin Piece Adams began quoting her conversation in his New York Tribune column, "The Conning Tower"—and was for many the very model of the emancipated woman.
Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Mona Van Duyn was educated at the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa. Typically a formalist poet, she often worked in long lines with varied meters. Sometimes taking up philosophical topics, she wrote about the commonplace events of ordinary life, as with "Toward a Definition of Marriage." She taught at Washington University.
Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, John Crowe Ransom was educated at Vanderbilt University and Christ Church College at Oxford University in England. After World War I service on the front in France, he joined Vanderbilt's faculty, where he helped lead the Agrarian Movement. It counted Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren among its members, generally resisted racial integration, urged a renewal of religious belief in the context of a hierarchical society, and championed a southern agrarian economy as an antidote to northern industrialism.