Wendy Rose was born in Oakland, California, of Hopi and Miwok ancestry. She attended Contra Costa College and the University of California at Berkeley and since then has taught Native American Studies at several colleges, including the University of California at Berkeley. She is an anthropologist and has served as the editor of American Indian Quarterly, as well as a poet and an artist. She presently teaches at Fresno City College and sometimes writes under the pseudonym Chiron Khanshendel.
Born Rose Emily Ridge in Dublin, Ireland, Ridge was taken by her mother to New Zealand when she was thirteen. After a failed marriage, Ridge herself moved to Sydney, New South Wales, where she enrolled at Trinity College and studied painting at the Académie Julienne. Meanwhile she was writing poems. She arrived in San Francisco in 1907, renaming herself Lola Ridge; the following year she was in New York. In Greenwich Village, her radical sentiments and sympathies for the poor found expression in her poetry.
Born Solomon Fishman in New York, Edwin Rolfe grew up on Coney Island. He took the pen name Rolfe in high school and eventually adopted it as his only name. Rolfe began writing revolutionary poems while he was still in high school and was soon publishing them in the Party's newspaper, Daily Worker.
From the outset, Muriel Rukeyser was at once a political poet and a visionary. At times, as at points in "The Book of the Dead," those qualities were intensified and in those moments she was simultaneously a revolutionary and a mystic. But to grasp the forces that drive her work—through a career that spanned five decades of American history—we have to come to terms with a visionary impulse rooted in time, embedded in a struggle with lived history. Politics is not only the large scale public life of nations.
Carolyn Rodgers grew up in Chicago’s South Side, where her intellectual and political vision was shaped in part by the Organization of Black African Culture and by poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Her poetry of the late 1960s voices the revolutionary nationalism of the Black Arts movement, but in a free-verse style with street slang that some of the male leaders of the movement found inappropriate for a woman. Even in these early poems, moreover, she registers notable tension between her revolutionary program and African American culture's more traditional commitments.
Although much of Robinson's work was done before American modernism's heyday, in several respects his poetry heralds elements of what was to come. Best known for his portraits of individuals, portraits often comparable to those done by Edgar Lee Masters, he is actually more versatile, writing dramatic monologues and blank verse narratives of considerable length. If his use of the vernacular and the absence of sentimentality in some of his portraits helps usher in modernism, so does a quality of indirection and irresolution in other poems.
Born in Galesburg, Illinois, and educated at Lombard College, Carl Sandburg for many years was drawn both to America's most radical union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and also to international socialism. The great poems of his first volume, Chicago Poems (1914), and of the next several years, some of them uncollected or unpublished, reflect his deep commitment to working people and his strong left politics, including his initial opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I and his interest in African American culture.
Born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts, the child of a wool merchant, Sexton's family lived in Boston suburbs and spent the summers on Squirrel Island, Maine. She married Alfred Sexton in 1948. Experiencing severe depression after her daughters were born in 1953 and 1955, she attempted suicide in 1956. Her doctor recommended writing poetry as an outlet for her feelings, and she attended Boston poetry workshops run by John Holmes and Robert Lowell.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath grew up in Winthrop. She was raised by her mother after her father died of complications from diabetes when she was eight. Plath was educated at Smith College and at Newnham College of Cambridge University. In 1953, after serving a month as a college guest editor at the New York fashion magazine Mademoiselle, she had a breakdown, and was unwisely subjected to electric shock therapy. She then attempted suicide and was hospitalized for six months, events she later adapted for her novel The Bell Jar (1963).
Born in Kirkwood, Missouri, and raised in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Moore was educated at Bryn Mawr College and Carlisle Commercial College. She shared a house with her mother all her life, much of it working on a series of jobs in the New York area, but always focusing on writing. Notably, her use of quotation in her poems is as elaborate as that of T.S. Eliot, but to quite different purposes. If Eliot aimed for magisterial allusiveness, Moore aimed for something more complex and subversive—to model the cultural constitution of knowledge and understanding.