Lifestory of Poet Kenneth Rexroth

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( 22 Dec. 1905- 6 June 1982 ) , poet and transcriber, was born Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth in South Bend, Indiana, the boy of Charles Rexroth, a pharmaceuticals salesman, and Delia Reed. Owing to Charles ’ s bouldery calling, the household moved often throughout the northern midwest until Delia died in 1916 and Charles in 1919. For the following three old ages, Rexroth lived with an aunt in Chicago. After his ejection from high school, he educated himself in literary salons, cabarets, talk halls, and tramp cantonments while working as a grappler, sodium carbonate dork, clerk, and newsman. In 1923-1924 he served a prison term for partial ownership of a whorehouse.

During the 1920s, Rexroth backpacked across the state several times, visited Paris and New York, taught in a spiritual school, and spent two months in a Hudson Valley monastery. Contemplations on these experiences appear in his ulterior poesy, but his early work was cubist and surrealist – frequently opaquely so. In 1927 he married Andr vitamin E Schafer, an epileptic painter, and they moved to San Francisco. In the late 1920s Rexroth ’ s foremost verse forms appeared in Pagany, Morada, and Charles Henri Ford ’ s Blues. He read much of Alfred North Whitehead ’ s doctrine around this clip. During the 1930s, Rexroth studied mysticism and Communism.

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Readings of Jacob Boehme, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus influenced alterations to his long verse form, Homestead Called Damascus, published by New Directions in 1963. He besides participated in the Communist party ’ s John Reed Clubs, organisations back uping working-class authors and creative persons. Although disbelieving about internal party political relations, Rexroth helped form nines on the West Coast until 1938. He corresponded with other left-of-center poets, such as Louis Zukofsky and George Oppen, who wanted to salvage poesy from mawkishness and Impressionism.

In the mid-1930s, Rexroth participated in the Federal Arts Projects. In 1936 he spoke at the Western Writers Conference and was published in New Masses, Partisan Review, New Republic, and Art Front. A long-standing association began in 1937 when Rexroth ’ s poesy appeared in the 2nd volume of James Laughlin ’ s New Directions in Poetry and Prose. Rexroth would be a womb-to-tomb friend, guru, and skiing comrade to this influential publishing house.

In 1938 Rexroth shifted his political attending to an ecologically based pacificism. His first volume of poesy, In What Hour ( 1940 ) , was lukewarmly received – a response he blamed on the literary constitution of the urban East Coast. After Andr vitamin E died in 1940, he married Marie Kass, a public wellness nurse who shared his passions for political relations and bivouacing. When the United States entered World War II, Rexroth registered as a painstaking dissenter and served as a psychiatric orderly. Objecting to war steps, he helped a figure of Nipponese Americans evade internment. During this period, he practiced Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga.

In 1944 his aggregation The Phoenix and the Tortoise appeared. The rubric verse form is a long philosophical narration interspersed with concrete animal images. This sort of crude Jeremiad was cardinal to Rexroth ’ s postwar aesthetic. He took the societal function of the poet rather earnestly, composing in a 1958 reappraisal of Kenneth Patchen ’ s work, “ If no 1 cried, ‘ Woe, suffering to the bloody metropolis of damnation! ’ and cipher listened to the few who cry out, we would cognize that the human race had eventually gone hopelessly and everlastingly huffy ” ( Kenneth Patchen: A Collection of Essays, erectile dysfunction. Richard G. Morgan [ 1977 ] , p. 23 ) .

In the late 1940s Rexroth established a Friday-evening salon and a Wednesday-night doctrine nine to discourse his theories of political relations and poesy ; in attending were friends such as Robert Duncan, William Everson, Richard Eberhart, Philip Lamantia and, subsequently, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, and other Beats. After having a Guggenheim family in 1948, Rexroth traveled across Europe and the United States, doing sociological observations that resurfaced in The Dragon and the Unicorn ( 1952 ) .

During the 1950s Rexroth continued to function as father figure to the Beat generations, partially through a hebdomadal wireless show. He besides became the biological male parent of two girls ; their female parent was doctrine stude nt Marthe Larsen. In 1953 he wrote what is likely his most well-known verse form, Thou Shalt Not Kill, ” in award of Dylan Thomas.

A passionate indictment of standardised civilization, the verse form asks who is responsible for Thomas ’ s decease ; its reply implicates the cocktails and Brooks Brothers suits of this universe. This piece became a criterion in Rexroth ’ s repertory when, with the Beats, he began to read poesy with musical concomitant. Actress Shirley MacLaine attended a poetry-and-jazz public presentation in the late fiftiess and concluded that Rexroth resembled `John Donne in the 4th dimension.

After Kass divorced him in 1955 Rexroth lawfully married Larsen in 1958 ( they had been illicitly married in France in 1949 ) ; they divorced in 1961. His live-in secretary, Carol Tinker, became his 4th married woman in 1974. In the 1960s Rexroth supported civil rights battles and the anti-war motion. His Collected Shorter Poems appeared in 1967 and Complete Collected Longer Poems in 1968.

Increasingly recognized by mainstream critics, he wrote a series of essays for Saturday Review and received a National Institute of Arts and Letters award in 1964. This ulterior work was dominated by Eastern doctrine – a subject that appealed to the pupils he taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara ( 1968-1974 ) . Partially on the strength of his interlingual renditions of Asiatic poets, Rexroth won a Fulbright to Japan ( 1974-1975 ) and a Copernicus Award for life-time accomplishment. His last major undertaking was a series of verse forms presented as interlingual renditions of a fictional Nipponese poet named Marichiko.

In ulterior old ages Rexroth maintained friendly relationships with younger authors, such as his literary executor Bradford Morrow, and feminist poets such as Carolyn Forch and Denise Levertov. Rexroth died in Santa Barbara, and, characteristically, Catholic eulogies, Buddhist chants, and Beat verse forms were performed at his funeral.

Kenneth Rexroth ’ s typical poetic voice emphasized gender, ecology, and mysticism and provided an aesthetic option to societal pragmatism and New Critical formalism. Although some women’s rightists have objected to his philandering and dated representations of adult females, as a author and editor, Rexroth liberally promoted both male and female group authors. His parts energized postwar American poesy.


  1. American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Sun Mar 18 12:29:57 2001
  2. Copyright ( degree Celsius ) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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