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Poetry Factoids

When Lord Byron entered Trinity College in Cambridge, he was not allowed to bring his dog along with him. So he brought a pet bear, instead.  We should all be so “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.

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General George S. Patton, Jr. (the general in command of the Seventh United States Army, and later the Third United States Army in the European Theater of World War II)  believed in reincarnation and wrote poetry, once combining the two in his long poem, “Through a Glass Darkly.” Also, in his youth he was an Olympic pentathlon athlete.

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Imamu Amiri Baraka was born LeRoi Jones in 1934, in Newark, NJ. He served in the U.S. Air Force for three years before founding the Black Arts Movement in Harlem.

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Gertrude Stein studied psychology under William James (brother of novelist Henry James). A supporter of the Cubist painters, she herself attempted to create Cubist poetry. She did this by emphasizing the verbal structure of her poems over their narrative flow.

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At 40, Rita Dove was the youngest person to be named Poet Laureate of the United States, an honor she held from 1993 to 1995.

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Vachel Lindsay is called the “Prairie Troubadour,” as well as the father of modern “singing poetry” — poems meant to be sung or chanted. By 1911, he was a popular performance artist who worked with themes from the American Midwest. Rather ahead of his time.

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Sarah Teasdale was so sickly as a child, she did not start school until the age of 14. Twenty years later, her fourth collection of poems, Love Songs, won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (among other awards).

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After graduating from Harvard, e.e. cummings took a break from academia to work for a mail-order book dealer in New York.

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Anne Bradstreet’s first collection of poems, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts,” published in 1650, was the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States

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Samuel Beckett was stabbed in the chest and nearly killed in Paris, in January 1938, because he refused the solicitations of a pimp. A private hospital room was arranged for Beckett by James Joyce.

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Oscar Wilde footed the bill for publishing John Gray’s collected poems, Siverpoints. Because of this, many scholars believe Gray was the inspiration for Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

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Frank O’Hara was the assistant curator at the New York Museum of Modern Art. There he was responsible for the “Action Painters” exhibits (featuring the works of artists such as Jackson Pollock).

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Edgar Lee Masters worked as a lawyer in Chicago before retiring to New York, where he recast himself as a full-time writer.

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Prior to becoming a pop poet, Rod McKuen worked as a radio dj, a newspaper columnist, and during the Korean Conflict he was a “psychological warfare scriptwriter.” He also wrote songs for Frank Sinatra!

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Aspiring to be a doctor, Aldous Huxley instead turned to writing after he developed an eye infection (which left him practically blind for a time).

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Anne Sexton worked as a fashion model in Boston in the late 1950’s. That was before she attended Robert Lowell’s poetry class, where she befriended Sylvia Plath.

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Before he took holy orders and became Dean of Saint Pauls, John Donne sailed with Robert Devereux (2nd Earl of Essex) in expeditions to Cadiz and the Azores.

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John Keats was licensed to practice as both a surgeon and an apothacary. He instead opted to work as a full-time writer.

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Emotionally devastated by her husband’s infidelity, HD (Hilda Doolittle) went to Vienna for psychiatric help from Sigmund Freud. She later wrote a tribute to Freud; her poem, “The Master.”

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Ernest Hemingway published only 25 poems in his lifetime; a posthumous collection (88 Poems) was published in 1979.

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Stevie Smith was born Florence Margaret Smith; she was nicknamed “Stevie” after the jockey Steve Donaghue (whom a friend said she resembled). But her family called her Peggy.

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Victorian poet Matthew Arnold wrote his ground-breaking poem, “Dover Beach,” while on his honeymoon. How romantic.

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From the age of 17 through 20, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote more than two hundred poems. The last seven years of his life, he wrote only eight.

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Samuel Johnson (18th century poet and essayist) once said of cucumbers: “(they) should be well-sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out as good for nothing.”

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Prolific Scifi author Ray Bradbury has also published eight books of poetry. His first published poem appeared in Pro Football Magazine.

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Matsuo Bashō, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan,  is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. His name, Bashō, means “banana hut.”

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For more than 40 years, William Carlos Williams was a practicing pediatrician in Rutherford, New Jersey. He wrote poetry in his spare time.

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During World War II, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Beat poet and founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore) was commander of the subchaser USS SC1308, and was at the Normandy invasion as part of the anti-submarine screen around the beaches.

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The original title of T.S. Eliot’s  poem, “The Wasteland,” was  “He Do the Police in Different Voices.”  Western civilization thanks Ezra Pound for convincing him to change it.

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2 responses »

  1. Great factoid! My goodness, what a difference a title makes. I wonder how much it would have changed the cultural impact of the poem had he gone with his original idea.

    Reply
  2. found the above factoids Interesting, very – hard to believe about “The Wasteland” – a title does make a difference!

    Reply

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