Born and raised in Illinois, MacLeish was educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School. He lived in Paris in the early 1920s after frontline service in World War I. On the editorial board of Fortune magazine in the 1930s, MacLeish served as both Librarian of Congress and Assistant Secretary of State in the Roosevelt administration. Despite the self-sufficiency of poetic form he argues for in "Ars Poetica," he often addressed political topics in poems or radio plays.
Born in England, Loy studied art in Germany, France, and Britain and continued to paint thereafter. She moved to Florence and became deeply involved with the futurist movement, though she gave its politics and cultural ambitions a feminist inflection, as her 1919 "Aphorisms on Futurism" suggests. Eventually she abandoned the movement as its patriarchal bias evolved into an emergent sympathy for fascism. Although she did not move permanently to the United States until 1936—first living in New York and then in Aspen, Colorado—and take up U.S.
Robert Lowell grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, as part of a family with a distinguished literary heritage. Poets James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell were among his ancestors. This heritage no doubt made his own father's limitations—he was a business failure after his retirement from the U.S. Navy—seem more severe. Lowell enrolled at Harvard, much as the family expected, but after the first of his lifelong series of emotional breakdowns and periods of manic behavior, he transferred to Kenyon College in 1937.
Lowell was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, of a family long influential in New England commerce, history, and culture. Her ancestors founded Lowell, Massachusetts; George Washington had appointed one a judge; others founded the Lowell textile mills. But the family lineage also included scholars and educators and the poet James Russell Lowell. Largely self-educated and more than slightly self-assured, she turned to writing poetry seriously in her thirties, publishing her first book in 1912.
Lindsay was born in his family home in Springfield, Illinois, delivered by his physician father. Lindsay spent nearly three years at Hiram College trying to fulfill his father's ambition that he become a doctor, but then convinced his parents art was his real mission. He enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute in 1901. Two years later, he transferred to the New York School of Art, but he was already spending a good deal of time writing poems.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, and educated at Wayne State University, Levine later studied at Iowa with Robert Lowell and John Berryman. Along the way, he took a number of working-class jobs; those, and the ruined industrial landscape of Detroit, helped shaped the settings and political loyalties of his poems.
Born in Ilford, Essex, in England, Levertov was educated at home until she went briefly to ballet school and then trained to work as a nurse in London during World War II. Her father was a Jew who converted to Christianity and became an Anglican priest; her mother was Welsh. Levertov came to the United States in 1948. She later served briefly as poetry editor for The Nation and taught at several schools, including Stanford.
Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Kunitz was educated at Harvard. Declaring himself a pacifist, he served in the army during World War II cleaning latrines. He taught poetry workshops at several colleges, coedited a number of biographical dictionaries, helped to establish the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, edited the Yale Series of Younger Poets (from 1974-1976), and refined an increasingly open, almost conversational poetic voice. A 1967 trip to the Soviet Union led to his translating several poets from the Russian.
Kumin was born Maxine Winokur of Jewish parents in Philadelphia and educated at Radcliffe. She has written poetry, criticism, fiction, and more than twenty children's books, including four coauthored with Anne Sexton, and taught at Tufts, Massachusetts, and Princeton. Kumin spends much of her time in rural New Hampshire, where she raises horses. Although she has often written about middle-class suburban experience, seeking survival and continuity in the vestiges of nature it encompasses, she has also made harsh and witty appraisals of rural life.
Among progressive modern American poets working with social and political themes and using traditional forms, Aaron Kramer may well be the single most accomplished figure. From his first protest poems, written in the mid-1930s when he was barely a teenager, through to his pointed critiques of the 1983 war in Grenada and Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to Nazi graves in Bitburg, what stands out about Kramer's work is the musical character of his acts of political witness.