TLW's American Poet Historyscope
By T.L. Winslow (TLW), the Historyscoper™
© Copyright by T.L. Winslow. All Rights Reserved.
Original Pub. Date: Aug. 27, 2015. Last Update: Oct 7, 2015.
Westerners are not only known as history ignoramuses, but double dumbass history ignoramuses when it comes to American poet history. Since I'm the one-and-only Historyscoper (tm), let me quickly bring you up to speed before you dive into my Master Historyscope.
List of American poets.
In 1708 London-born atty. Ebenezer Cooke (1667-1732) of Prince George's County, Md. pub. The Sot-Weed Factor: Or, a Voyage to Maryland, a Satyr in which is describ'd the Laws, Governments, Courts and Constitutions of the Country; and also the Buildings, Feasts, Frolocks, Entertainments and Drunken Humours of the Inhabitants of that Part of America in Burlesque Verse; rev. 1731; the first Am. satire?; basis of John Barth's 1960 novel "The Sot-Weed Factor".
In 1835 Portland, Maine-born Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) pub. his first poetry book Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea. In 1839 he pub. Voices of the Night. In 1841 he pub. Ballads and Other Poems; incl. The Village Blacksmith, The Wreck of the Hesperus (about the Jan. 6, 1839 shipwreck of the Favorite off Norman's Woe, Gloucester, Mass.). In 1842 he pub. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), Poems on Slavery, his first public support of abolition, "so mild that even a Slaveholder might read them without losing his appetite for breakfast." In 1847 he pub. Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie; Evangeline Bellefontaine of Grande-Pre in Acadia searches for her lost love Gabriel Lajeunesse during the Acadian Expulsion; "This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,/ Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,/ Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic." (first lines) In 1851 he pub. The Golden Legend; Lady Irmingard, Walter, Abbot Ernestus, Friar Claus, Prince Henry, Herod, Barbarossa, Elsie, and Lucifer, In 1855 he pub. The Song of Hiawatha (of the Chippewas) (Nov. 10); bestseller (50K copies); set at the Pictured Rocks on the S shore of Lake Superior; Hiawatha and his lover Minnehaha; Hiawatha's mother Wenonah and grandmother Nokomis; "the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face" AKA the "Black-Robe chief" converts him to Christianity; "By the shores of Gitche Gumee,/ By the shining Big-Sea-Water,/ Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,/ Daughter of the moon, Nokomis.../ There the wrinkled old Nokomis/ Nursed the little Hiawatha." In 1861 he pub. Paul Revere's Ride (The Landlord's Tale); set on Apr. 18, 1775; Revere didn't wait for a lantern signal, and didn't announce the British approach in Concord? In 1863 he pub. Tales of a Wayside Inn; the Wayside Inn in Sudbury (20 mi. from Cambridge), Mass., a favorite hangout of Harvard College students.
In 1855 Huntington, Long Island, N.Y.-born free verse poet ("the Paumanok Poet") ("Founding Father of American Poetry") Walter "Walt" Whitman (1819-92) pub.Leaves of Grass; 12 poems, growing to 32 in the 2nd. 1856 ed. and almost 400 in the 6th and final 1892 ed.; "grass" is slang for works of minor value, and "leaves" is slang for the pages they're printed on; self-pub. after struggling for years of rejection by commercial publishers; he began to get discouraged until he received a note from Ralph Waldo Emerson reading: "Dear sir, I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I greet you at the beginning of a great career"; Emerson suggests that he omit some overtly sexual passages, but he declines; "I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil".
On May 15, 1886 Amherst, Mass.-born poet ("the Nun of Amherst") ("the Belle of Amherst") ("Founding Mother of American Poetry") Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-86) dies in Amherst, Mass (a virgin?) in the same house she lived in all her life, having become a recluse after being jilted by a married minister; last words: "Let us go in, the fog is rising"; she leaves 1,775 poems, of which only seven are pub. during her lifetime, incl. five in the Springfield Republican; she never read Walt Whitman (1819-92), saying that she heard he was "disgusting"?
In 1893 Dayton, Ohio-born Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1926), who wrote his first poem at age 6 and gave his first recital at age 12 pub. his debut vol. of poetry Oak and Ivy (Lyrics of a Lowly Life), which he self-pub. while working as an elevator boy at the Callahan Bldg. in Dayton, Ohio; Teddy Roosevelt later presents him with a ceremonial sword. In 1898 he pub. his first novel The Uncalled. In 1900 he pub. The Strength of Gideon. In 1902 he pub. The Sport of the Gods. His birthplace Dunbar House at 219 N. Paul Laurence Dunbar St. in Dayton, Ohio becomes a shrine (don't miss the ceremonial sword presented to him by Teddy Roosevelt?).
In 1898 Garnett, Kan.-born atty.-poet-playwright-writer Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) pub. his first vol. of poetry A Book of Verses, followed by Songs and Sonnets (1910), and A Spoon River Anthology (1915) (his biggest hit); "Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,/ The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?/ All, all are sleeping on the hill." He follows with Songs and Satires (1916), Fiddler Jones (1916), The Great Valley (1916), Toward the Gulf (1918), Starved Rock (1919), Jack Kelso: A Dramatic Poem (1920), Domesday Book (1920); "Take any life you choose and study it;/ It gladdens, troubles, changes many lives./ The life goes out, how many things result?/ Fate drops a stone, and to the utmost shores/ The circles spread." He follows with The Open Sea (1921), The New Spoon River (1924), Lichee-Nut Poems (Jan.) (Am. Mercury) , Selected Poems (1925), Lee: A Dramatic Poem (1926), Godbey: A Dramatic Poem (1931), a sequel to Jack Kelso (1920), The Serpent in the Wilderness (1933), Richmond: A Dramatic Poem (1934), Invisible Landscapes (1935), Poems of People (1936), The Golden Fleece of California (1936), The New World (1937), More People (1939), Illinois Poems (1941), Along the Illinois (1942), and Silence (1946).
In July 1908 after leaving the U.S. and moving to Venice, Italy in Apr., Hailey, Idaho-born Italophile anti-Semitic #1 modernist poet ("Old Granddad") Ezra Westin Loomis Pound (1885-1972) pub. his first vol. of poetry A Lume Spento (With Tapers Spent), moving to London in Aug. with £3 in his pocket, getting his poetry noticed, with Ford Madox Ford describing him as "approach[ing] with the step of a dancer, making passes with a cane at an imaginary opponent. Pound was a flamboyant dresser at this stage, and had trousers made of green billiard cloth, a pink coat, a blue shirt, a tie hand-painted by a Japanese friend and an immense sombrero. All this was accompanied by a flaming beard cut to a point and a single, large blue earring." In Feb. 1909 he meets English Vorticist artist Dorothy Shakespear (1886-1973), marrying her in Apr. 1914. In Oct. 1912 he pub. Ripostes, helping found Imagism. In 1920 he pub. Hugh Selwyn Mauberly; a "quintesential autobiography" addressing his failure as a poet who attempted to "wring lillies from the acorn"; "For three years, out of key with his time/ He strove to resuscitate the dead art/ Of poetry"; "Beside this thoroughfare/ The sale of half-hose has/ Long since superseded the cultivation/ Of Pierian roses." "There died a myriad/ And of the best, among them,/ For an old bitch gone in the teeth,/ For a botched civilisation"; In 1924 he moves to Italy, openly supporting the Fascists until they lose the war and he is arrested for treason and sent back to the U.S. in Nov. 1945, where he has a breakdown and is committed to a mental hospital before being released in Apr. 1958, returning to Italy for life; his motto: "Make it new" - whadya think I am, a cartoon dog? Meanwhile in 1949 he is awarded the first-ever Bollingen Prize for his "Pisan Cantos", written in military detention in Pisa, Italy before going insane, which he continues to work on until the 1970 pub. of The Cantos, an 800-page unfinished poem he worked on for 50 years, claiming to trace the fall of civilization to the conflict between artistic spirit and materialistic greed, building up his heroes John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, becoming the #1 work of modernist poetry. He dies on Nov. 1, 1972 in Venice, Italy. "A cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children." (Time mag.) "A plymouth-rock conscience landed on a predilection for the arts" (self-description); "Literature is news that stays news."
In 1912 Poetry: A Magazine of Verse is founded by Harriet Monroe (1860-1936) in Chicago, Ill., going on to pub. Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Carl Sandburg; Pound goes on to help launch the careers of James Joyce and T.S. Eliot.
In 1913 after moving to Beaconsfield, London in 1912, San Francisco, Calif.-born Robert Frost (1874-1963) pub. his first poetry collection A Boy's Will. In 1914 he pub. North of Boston, which makes him famous overnight; incl. Mending Wall ("Something therer is that doesn't love a wall", "Good fences make good neighbors"), After Apple-Picking, The Death of the Hired Man. In 1915 he returns to the U.S., settling on a farm in Franconia, N.H. and teaching English and "the sound of sense" at Amherst College in Mass. (until 1938). In 1916 he pub. Mountain Interval; rev. ed. 1920; incl. The Road Not Taken; "Two roads diverged in the wood, and I--/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference." In 1921 he begins teaching every summer and fall at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Ripton, Vt. (until 1963). In 1923 he pub. New Hampshire: A Poem With Notes and Grace Notes (Pulitzer Prize); incl. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening; "The woods are lovely, dark and deep./ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep." In 1928 he pub. West-Running Brook. In 1940 he buys a 5-acre plot in South Miami, Fla. named Pencil Pines, wintering there for life. He goes on to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1960.
In 1914 Indianapolis, Ind.-born Margaret Caroline Anderson (1886-1973) begins pub. The Little Review lit. mag. (until 1929), which goes on to introduce modernists T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and pub. the first 13 chapters of Ulysses by James Joyce in 1918, which gets her convicted in 1921 of obscenity.
In 1917 after a "Gypsy childhood on the coast of Maine", then in 1912 entering the poem Renascence in The Lyric Year, seeing it come in 4th even though everybody thought it should have won, leading to wealthy arts patron Caroline B. Dow paying for her education at Vassar College, Rockland, Maine-born feminist activist lyrical poet-playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) (AKA Nancy Boyd) pub. her first vol. of poetry Renascence: And Other Poems, which incl. "Interim" ("The Room is full of you!"). In 1920 she pub. A Few Figs from Thistles: Poems and Sonnets, which becomes controversial for its exploration of feminism and female sexuality; "And if I love you Wednesday,/ Well, what is that to you?/ I do not love you Thursday -/ So much is true./ And why you come complaining/ Is more than I can see./ I loved you Wednesday, - yes - but what/ Is that to me?"; "Cut if you will, with Sleep's dull knife,/ Each day to half its length, my friend, - / The years that Time takes off my life,/ He'll take off from the other end!"; "She wrote the best sonnets of the century." (Richard Wilbur) In 1921 she pub. Second April (sonnets), which incl. "Spring", "Ode to Silence", "The Beanstalk"; also The Lamp and the Bell (sonnets), composed for a Vassar College commencement. In 1922 she pub. The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, which beats out T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" for the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, after which she goes silly?
In 1923 Cambridge, Mass.-born majuscule-challenged poet-playwright-writer-painter Edward Estlin Cummings (e e cummings) (1894-1962) (likes hyphens and parentheses, and detests commas, periods, and capital letters) pub. his first vol. of poetry Tulips and Chimneys; Thomas Seltzer changes "&" to "and" in the title; incl. "All in green went my love riding", "Thy fingers make early flowers of", "Buffalo Bill's", and "Puella Mea".
In 1925 Joplin, Mo.-born gay black poet James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-67) pub. I, Too, Am America, which contains the soundbyte: "I am the darker brother, but I too am American", followed in 1926 by The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (pub. in "The Nation"); "The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful." On May 22, 1967 he dies in New York City.
In 1928 Bethlehem, Penn.-born poet-novelist Stephen Vincent Benet (Benét) (1898-1943), brother of poet William Rose Benet (1886-1950) pub. John Brown's Body (Pulitzer Prize), a book-length narrative poem about the U.S. Civil War.
In 1928 Jamaican-born poet Claude McKay (1889-1948) pub. Home to Harlem, which becomes a bestseller. In 1930 he pub. Banjo. In 1932 he pub. Gingertown (short stories). In 1933 he pub. Banana Bottom.
In 1953 City Lights Bookstore (named after the 1931 Charles Chaplin film) at 261 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco, Calif. is founded by unwholesome-but-not-exiled bearded Yonkers, N.Y.-born poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-) and Peter D. Martin as the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S., becoming home to the growing anti-materialist nonviolent anti-establishment Beat Generation of poets (they had grappled with affluence and lost and were consequently beat by the system, or just liked jazz beats, or like to beat their meat?), which went along with the Beatnik Movement, which began in Los Angeles' Venice West; males like beards, khaki trousers, and sandals; females like tousled hair, black leotards, and thick "raccoon" makeup around their eyes; Jean-Louis "Jack" Kerouac (1922-69), Newark, N.J. gay Jew-turned-Buddhist Irwin Allen Ginsberg (1926-97), and William Seward Burroughs II (1914-97) become the Beat Trinity, producing benzedrine-fueled speed-rap "bop kaballa"; Times Square bi con artist and junkie Herbert Huncke (1915-96) AKA "the Mayor of 42nd St." gives the Beats their name. In 1954 Ginsberg undergoes a year of psychotherapy this year and next, and ditches his career as a fledgling market research consultant, producing his poem "Howl!" in a nonstop frenzy. On Oct. 7, 1955 the Six Gallery Reading, AKA Six Angels in the Same Performance at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, Calif., organized by gay poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Spicer (1925-65) brings the East and West Coast factions of the Beat Generation for his first public reading of "Howl", the audience chipping in to buy jugs of wine to him Ginsberg up first, incl. William Carlos Williams, Lionel Trilling, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac. In Nov. 1956 Ginsberg pub. Howl and Other Poems, written during a peyote vision; "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" (opening line); "America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel"; "Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell" (intro. by William Carlos Williams); San Francisco police confiscate it from publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti for obscenity, but on Oct. 3, 1957 Judge Clayton W. Horn finds "redeeming social importance", ruling it not obscene, with the soundbyte: "Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?"; the man "who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown" is New York poet Naphtali "Tuli" Kupferberg (1923-2010) of The Fugs. In 1961 he pub. Kaddish and Other Poems, 1958-1960; about his dead mother; written on amphetamines; also Empty Mirror: Early Poems.
In Oct. 1960 Boston, Mass.-born poet-novelist Sylvia Plath (1932-63) (AKA Victoria Lucas), wife (since 1956) of Ted Hughes pub. her first vol. of poetry The Colossus and Other Poems; "My hours are married to shadow./ No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel/ On the blank stones of the landing". They are dancing and stamping on you./ They always knew it was you./ Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through." On Feb. 11, 1963 (early a.m.) she commits suicide in her flat at 23 Fitzroy Rd., Primrose Hill, London by putting her head in a gas oven at her flat at 23 Fitzroy Rd., Primrose Hill after hubby Ted Hughes leaves her in Sept. for German-born Assia Esther Wevill (nee Gutmann) (1927-69) (who later commits suicide the same way), causing a burst of creativity; she has been taking anti-depressants for a few days, but not long enough to take full effect; her gravestone is inscribed "Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted." In 1965 she posth. pub. Ariel, which incl. Ariel, Daddy; "I lived in a black shoe for thirty years"; "Daddy, I have had to kill you"; "I may be a bit of a Jew"; "There's a stake in your fat black heart/ And the villagers never liked you./ They are dancing and stamping on you./ They always knew it was you./ Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through."; Tulips "I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explostions"; "I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted/ To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.": The Munich Mannequins, which calls Munich the "morgue between Paris and Rome", and becomes famous for the opening line "Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children", Lady Lazarus, where she appears to believe she is Jewish, and predicts her suicide?; "Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ And I eat men like air." In 1971 she posth. pub. Crossing the Water "Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people./ Where do the black trees go that drink here?/ Their shadows must cover Canada."; also Winter Trees. In 1982 she wins a posth. Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Collected Poems (1981). In 2006 her unpub. poem Ennui is discovered.
In 1961 Newark, N.J.-born African-Am. poet Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) (1934-) pub. his debut vol. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note. In 1966 he pub. Home: Social Essays, incl. "Cuba Libre", and "The Legacy of Malcolm X and the Coming of the Black Nation".
In 1967 Manhattan, N.Y.-born street junkie poet James Dennis "Jim" Carroll (1949-2009) pub. his first poem Organic Trains, followed by 4 Ups and 1 Down (1970), Living at the Movies (1973), The Book of Nods (1986), Fear of Dreaming (1993), which is filmed in 1995 by John L'Ecuyer as "Curtis' Charm", and Void of Course: Poems 1994-1997. In 1978 he pub. the memoir The Basketball Diaries, which is filmed in 1995 starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
In 1969 St. Louis, Mo.-born writer-poet-entertainer Maya Angelou (Marguerite Ann Johnson) (1928-2014) (nickname comes from her older brother, who calls her "my-a-sister") (first black and first female street car conductor in San Francisco, Calif.) pub. the bestselling autobio. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, about her poor Southern Am. black upbringing, with title taken from the poem Sympathy by black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1926); "One would say of my life, born loser, had to be, from a broken family, raped at eight, unwed mother of sixteen", causing her to become a role model for those wanting to make it big in publishing by making people feel sorry for them, er, for stirring stories of blacks struggling against white racism; she goes on to pub. five more autobios. (until 2002) with Random House ed. Robert Loomis (1926-), developing "a relationship that's kind of famous among publishers" (Angelou); incl. the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; "For the caged bird/ sings of freedom".
In 1975 feminist Creek poet Joy Harjo (1951-) pub. her debut The Last Song, seeking "another way of seeing language and another way of using it that wasn't white European male".
In 1992 Akron, Ohio-born poet Rita Frances Dove (1952-) pub. her first novel Through the Ivory Gate. In 1993-5 she becomes the first African-Am. and youngest U.S. poet laureate.