Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Patchen (1911–1972) was born in Niles, Ohio, in 1911. From the age of twelve, he kept a diary and read Dante, Homer, Burns, Shakespeare, and Melville. He attended Alexander Meiklejohn’s Experimental College for one year and then the University of Wisconsin. He was employed in a variety of jobs as a migrant worker in the United States and Canada. “Permanence,” a sonnet, was published in The New York Times on April 10, 1932. He wrote more than forty books of poetry, prose and drama, including Hallelujah Anyway (1966), The Love Poems of Kenneth Patchen (1960), The Famous Boating Party (1954), Before the Brave (1936), First Will and Testament (1939) and Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941), a prose work. In 1942, he published The Dark Kingdom in a limited edition of seventy-five copies and painted each cover individually in water color. For more than thirty years, Patchen lived with a severe spinal ailment that caused him almost constant physical pain. The weight of this personal battle was compounded by his sensitivity to greater issues of humanity, and his poetry paid special attention to the horrors of war and the American worker’s rights. Patchen was also one of the first poets to explore the combination of spoken-word performance with jazz accompaniment. His Collected Poems were published by New Directions in 1968. Kenneth Patchen died in 1972.

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