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Dos Passos, John (1896-1970)

Biographical Introduction

The writer who is celebrated for his historical triple novel, U.S.A., was born in a Chicago hotel. Both of his parents were already married to other people—His father was a New York corporation lawyer of Portuguese descent; his mother was from an esteemed Virginia family.…

John Dos Passos

Very, Jones (1813-1880)

Biographical Introduction

A mystic poet of New England, Jones Very was born in Salem, Massachusetts. The son of sea-captain Jones Very was nine years old when he went to sea with his father for two years before his father died prematurely in 1824.…

John Very

Updike, John (1932-2009)

Born during the Depression in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike grew up in the nearby tiny town of Shillington with his parents and grandparents. He wanted to become a writer, often reading daily two of the available mysteries and thrillers of the day.…

John Updike

Tuckerman, Frederick Goddard (1821-1873)

Biographical Introduction

The poet who has been described as a Brahmin, a Transcendentalist, and a Romantic published only one book during his lifetime: Poems. Most of Tuckerman’s poems are sonnets, but his longer poem—“The Cricket”—not published until 1950, has been described by Yvor Winters as “probably the greatest single American poem of the nineteenth century.”

Tuckerman was born in Boston in 1821.…

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862)

Biographical Introduction

The “poet-naturalist” was born in Concord, Massachusetts, of French-Scottish-Quaker-Puritan heritage. When he was only twelve, Thoreau prepared nature collections for scientist Louis Agassiz. His older brother, John, paid the cost of his years at Harvard College, Class of 1887.…

Henry David Thoreau

Taylor, Edward (c. 1642-1729)

Biographical Introduction

Born in the son of a farmer in England around 1642, the poet crossed the Atlantic in 1668 and was admitted with advanced standing to Harvard College, graduating in 1671. Taylor roomed with Samuel Sewall, the judge who later presided at the Salem witch trials.…

Edward Taylor

Stevens, Wallace (1879-1955)

Biographical Introduction

This poet-business executive, the son of Garrett Stevens and Margaretha Zeller, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. His father was a lawyer who wrote occasional poems and newspaper articles. While a special student at Harvard from 1897 to 1900, Stevens was preparing to become a journalist.…

Wallace Stevens

Sissman, L.E. (1928-1976)

Biographical Introduction

Poet and businessman, infant prodigy and late bloomer, Louis Edward Sissman was a divided and complex man, a poet who while dying gathered with tenderness the flowers of his youth, a man to be admired for humor, for persistence, for courage, for modesty.…

L.E. Sissman

Sexton, Anne (1928-1974)

Biographical Introduction

Anne Gray Harvey was born in Newton, Massachusetts. Her father, a lawyer and woolen manufacturer, was an alcoholic. Her mother suffered from unfilled literary aspirations. Anne was not comfortable with school, but she attended a finishing school and was briefly a fashion model.…

Anne Sexton

Seeger, Alan (1888-1916)

Seeger was born in New York City. His family moved to Mexico City in 1900. Much of the family magazine, The Prophet, was written by him. As a Harvard College student, he edited the Harvard Monthly, which published many of his poems.…

Alan Seeger