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.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and in the surrounding area, James Dickey was first a public figure as a high school football star. He did not decide to be a writer until after service in the Air Force in World War II and then enrollment at Vanderbilt University. Even then, he took up other occupations as well. He helped train pilots in the Korean War and worked as an advertising executive for Coca-Cola. Both in his poetry and in his widely successful novel, Deliverance (1970), he was fascinated by violent, definitive tests of selfhood.
Joy Davidman's first publications appeared while she was still an undergraduate at Hunter College. Poetry began to publish her poems in 1936 and, within a year or two, she had joined the Communist Party. Letter to a Comrade, the only collection of her own poems, was published in the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1938. She spent the latter half of 1939 in Hollywood as an assistant screenwriter for MGM, an experience that led to her writing a number of film reviews for New Masses in the early 1940s.
E.(Edward) E.(Estlin) Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard. When he began publishing in the 1920s, he lived in both New York and Paris, but he eventually spent most of his time in New York. From the outset there were powerfully contradictory impulses in his work. A strong component of sentimentality persisted throughout his career, but it is counterpointed either with blunt sexuality or with defamiliarizing typographic dislocation. He was sardonic about organized religion, but maintained an almost transcendentalizing faith in human beings.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.