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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Born and raised in a steelworker's family in the steel town of Martin's Ferry, Ohio, James Wright joined the army after high school; he was sent to occupied Japan. After returning, he studied with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College and Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington, where he earned a Ph.D. He taught at the University of Minnesota, Hunter College, and the University of Delaware. In his first two books, Wright used regular meters and rhymes and often celebrated the social outsiders of the small towns and farms near where he grew up.
Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, educated at Davidson College, the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, and the University of Rome, Charles Wright is currently a professor in the Writing Program at the University of Virginia. Wright's interest in poetry was quickened by a tour of duty in the U.S. Army Intelligence Service in Italy in 1957. He became an admirer of Ezra Pound and Italian poets like Eugenio Montale whose work he translated in 1979, and Cesare Pavese, whose rich sonority his own poetic line carries over into English.
Born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, C(arolyn) D. Wright is the daughter of a judge and a court reporter. She received her first degree from Memphis State University and completed her education at the University of Arkansas. She has remained in touch with her roots. She remains the Poet Laureate of Arkansas's Boone County and organized a traveling exhibit about the state in the mid-1990s.
Arthur Yvor Winters was born in Chicago. His first publications were as an imagist poet, and his work was much admired in the 1920s. The Magpie's Shadow (1922) is composed entirely of one-line poems, six syllables to the line. But even as a young poet he thought about critical matters. His 1924 essay, "The Testament of a Stone," about the poetic image, was important enough for the editors of Secession to devote an entire issue to it. Hart Crane was a contemporary and a friend, but one whose excess Winters found disturbing. He felt Williams's free verse was erratic.