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Auslander, Joseph (11 October 1897–22 June 1965), poet, editor, and translator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Louis Auslander and Martha Asyueck. He attended Columbia University from 1914 to 1915, then transferred to Harvard, receiving his B.A. in 1917. In 1919 he became an instructor in English at Harvard. He pursued graduate studies there until 1924, with the interruption of one year (1921–1922) at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he went on a Parker Traveling Fellowship. His poetry began to appear in national magazines in 1919, and his first volume, ...

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Bacon, Leonard (26 May 1887–01 January 1954), poet, literary critic, and teacher, was born in Solvay, New York, the son of Nathaniel Terry Bacon, a chemical engineer, and Helen Hazard. Bacon led a sheltered life at his mother’s familial estate in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. His parents enrolled him in 1898 in St. George’s at Newport, where he spent seven years preparing to matriculate at Yale, following in the footsteps not only of his father but of some twenty other relatives. Bacon gives candid insight into his college years, remembering colleagues and professors in an amiable light though remarking that “with the exception of English and German, I think we were not particularly well taught, or rather that the conception of teaching was poor” ( ...

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Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston (29 March 1831–10 March 1919), author and teacher, was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Henry Huddleston and Mary Singleton. When Barr was young, her family moved often, according to her father’s assignment as a Methodist minister. Although her early education was frequently interrupted by relocations, returns on the Reverend Huddleston’s investments allowed Barr to attend the best private schools wherever the church sent the family. Furthermore, reading sophisticated books and treatises to her father reinforced her formal schooling and contributed to an excellent early education. This childhood security ended abruptly in 1847, when a family friend absconded to Australia with the Reverend Huddleston’s fortune, and Barr had to earn her own living as a “second teacher” at a school in Downham Market. Soon the family’s monetary situation improved and enabled Barr, in 1849, to attend Normal School in Glasgow to learn the Stowe teaching method, with its emphasis on moral training, lifelong learning, and understanding rather than rote learning. Marriage, in 1850, to Robert Barr, a prosperous young Scottish wool merchant, ended her teacher-training program. Nevertheless, teaching, on a formal or informal basis, was an important part of Barr’s life for the next twenty years....

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Bates, Katharine Lee (12 August 1859–28 March 1929), educator and writer, was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Bates, a Congregational minister, and Cornelia Frances Lee, a former schoolteacher. When Bates was less than a month old, her father died, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. They remained in Falmouth for a dozen years, then moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, which would be Bates’s home and professional base for the rest of her life. Although the family was unusually education-minded—Bates’s paternal grandfather had been president of Middlebury College, and her mother had graduated from Mount Holyoke Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College)—poverty prevented her older brothers from continuing their schooling. Because they contributed to the family’s income, however, Bates was able to complete high school and to enroll in the newly established Wellesley College, from which she received her B.A. in 1880....

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Beach, Joseph Warren (14 January 1880–13 August 1957), educator, literary critic, and poet, was born in Gloversville, New York, the son of Eugene Beach, a physician, and Sarah Jessup Warren. After graduating from a public high school there, he attended the University of Minnesota, where his uncle Cyrus Northrop was president. He earned his B.A. in English in 1900 and moved on to Harvard University, where he received his M.A. in 1902 and his Ph.D. in 1907, both in English. At Harvard Beach studied under philosopher ...

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Bell, James Madison (03 April 1826–1902), abolitionist, poet, and lecturer, was born in Gallipolis, Ohio. His parents’ identities are unknown. At age sixteen, in 1842, he moved to Cincinnati. While there, in 1848, he married Louisiana Sanderlin (or Sanderline), with whom he had several children, and also learned the plastering trade from his brother-in-law George Knight. Bell worked as a plasterer during the day and attended Cincinnati High School for Colored People at night. Founded in 1844 by Reverend Hiram S. Gilmore, the school had a connection to Oberlin College and was said to have given impetus to the sentiment found in ...

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Blackburn, Paul (24 November 1926–13 September 1971), poet and translator, was born in Saint Albans, Vermont, the son of William Blackburn and Frances Frost, a poet and novelist. Blackburn’s parents separated in 1930. His father left for California; his mother pursued a literary career, eventually settling in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Blackburn was left in the care of his strict maternal grandparents. His grandmother required little pretext for whipping him regularly, and his grandfather, who worked for the railroad, was away from home for long stretches at a time. In late poems such as “My Sainted,” he reveals his bitterness about his early childhood....

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Brown, Sterling Allen (01 May 1901–13 January 1989), professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He was graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and notably with ...

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Campbell, James Edwin (28 September 1867–26 January 1896), African-American poet and educator, was born in Pomeroy, Ohio, the son of James Campbell, a laborer, and Lethia Stark. He graduated from the Pomeroy Academy, having completed the course in Latin and German, in 1884. Entering teaching, Campbell spent the next two years in schools near Gallipolis, Ohio, and also in Rutland, Ohio, where he was offered a position as principal of the white schools, an offer he declined....

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Carleton, Will (21 October 1845–18 December 1912), poet, lecturer, and editor, was born William McKendree Carleton in Hudson, Michigan, the son of John Hancock Carleton, a pioneer farmer, and Celestia Elvira Smith. An earnest, sensitive lad with an early passion for reading, he began writing poetry in his diary in his early teens....

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Carmer, Carl Lamson (16 October 1893–11 September 1976), poet and historian, was born in Cortland, New York, the son of Willis Griswold Carmer, the superintendent of schools in Albion, New York, and Mary Lamson. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1914 with a Ph.B. and returned for a Ph.M. in 1917, after receiving an M.A. from Harvard two years earlier. In 1914 he married Doris Geer; they had no children....

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Caulkins, Frances Manwaring (26 April 1795–03 February 1869), author, was born in New London, Connecticut, the daughter of Joshua Caulkins, a seagoing trader who died in Haiti before her birth, and Fanny Manwaring. Her mother married Philemon Haven in 1807. Caulkins attended schools in Norwichtown and Norwich, Connecticut. She was a voracious reader and began early in life to collect information about history and genealogies. She lived with a maternal uncle in New London, where she began to publish essays in local newspapers about people and events of regional interest....

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Ciardi, John (24 June 1916–30 March 1986), poet-translator, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Carminantonio Ciardi, an insurance premium collector, and Concetta Di Benedictis. Ciardi was delivered by a midwife at his parents’ home in Boston’s Little Italy. Three years later his father died in an automobile accident, and his mother moved her family seven miles away to Medford, where the poet grew up across the street from the Mystic River. After high school, he went to Bates College in Maine for a year and a half before transferring to Tufts College in Medford for financial reasons. He majored in English and learned poetry from John Holmes, himself an accomplished poet-teacher, who became a surrogate father for Ciardi. He graduated with honors in 1938 and went to the University of Michigan to study poetry with Roy Cowden. There he won the Avery Hopwood Poetry Award in 1939, the same year he received an M.A. in English....

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Clifton, Lucille (27 June 1936–13 February 2010), (27 June 1936–13 Feb. 2010), poet, author of children’s books, memoirist, and college professor, was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York. Her parents, Thelma Moore Sayles and Samuel Louis Sayles, moved north during the Great Migration, Thelma coming from Georgia and Samuel from Virginia. Strong-willed and proud of his family roots going back to Dahomey, Africa, Samuel Sayles was a steelworker and widower who had a daughter by his first wife. In 1937, a year after Lucille’s birth, he fathered a third daughter by a neighbor woman. He and Thelma Sayles, a laborer turned homemaker, then had a son in 1938. The family moved to nearby Buffalo when Lucille was a young child. Although neither parent had attended school for more than a few years, both were avid readers. Her father was a storyteller, and Thelma Sayles enjoyed writing poems. Their daughter frequently told the story of sharing one of her early free-verse poems with her mother, who responded, “Baby, that ain’t no poem!,” and proceeded to show her daughter how to write rhymed, metrical verse....

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Coffin, Robert Peter Tristram (18 March 1892–20 January 1955), poet and teacher, was born in Brunswick, Maine, the son of James William Coffin, a farmer, and Alice Mary Coombs. Robert spent his early years living on various islands off the coast of Maine, where often the nearest neighbor was two or more miles away. While his father created working farms out of this wilderness, the ten Coffin children learned far more than a formal education under the tutelage of their mother; they were taught to adapt the rugged surroundings to their needs, whether in collecting berries and fish for preserves or steaming oak strips over a boiling kettle to bend boat ribs. These early lessons instilled in Coffin a love of Maine and its wilderness that would later reemerge, meshed with a strong New England Puritanism, as the foundation of much of his literary work....

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Conkling, Grace Walcott Hazard (07 February 1878–15 November 1958), poet and English professor, was born in New York City, the daughter of Christopher Grant, a Presbyterian minister, and Frances Post Hazard. In 1899 Conkling graduated with a bachelor of letters degree from Smith College, where she returned to teach English in 1914. First, she taught English, Latin, and Greek at Graham School in New York for a year (1901–1902) and then traveled to Europe, where she studied music at the University of Heidelberg in 1902–1903 and languages in Paris during 1903–1904. In 1905 she married Roscoe Platt Conkling, with whom she had two children. The Conklings lived for nearly five years in Mexico. Their daughter Hilda became known as a child prodigy after her mother had two collections of her poetry published, ...

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Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Sr. (02 February 1861–14 March 1949), teacher, author, and civic leader, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Michael (also spelled Micheil) Cotter, a boarding house owner, and Martha Vaughn. Although his father was known as an avid reader, Cotter was raised largely by his mother, a freeborn woman of mixed English, Cherokee, and African blood. It was from her naturally dramatic manner—she orally composed poems and plays as she worked at chores—that he acquired his love of language and stories. Having taught herself, she also taught Cotter to read and enrolled him in school, but at age eight economic necessity forced him to drop out and begin working at various jobs: in a brickyard, then a distillery, and finally as a ragpicker and a teamster. Until age twenty-two, manual labor consumed much of Cotter’s life....

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Creeley, Robert White (21 May 1926–30 March 2005), poet and prose writer, was born Robert White Creeley in Arlington, Massachusetts, to Dr. Oscar Slade Creeley and Genevieve Jules Creeley. His childhood was marked by two tragedies, the loss of an eye in an accident and the death of his father, both by age five. His father had been a successful physician and ran a clinic, but his death at the onset of the Great Depression left Robert and his sister, Helen, to be raised in greatly reduced circumstances by their mother, who worked as a nurse, and other female relatives. In later life Creeley attributed an uncertainty about “manliness” to the dearth of male role models in his household; and to his family’s resolute puritanism he attributed both an early confusion toward sexuality and a sense of moral responsibility. As a teenager he attended Holderness School, a prep school in New Hampshire, and then entered Harvard in 1943. After a difficult year as a student he left to join the American Field Service as an ambulance driver in India and Southeast Asia, returning to Harvard following the war but leaving just short of a degree....

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Crosby, Fanny (24 March 1820–12 February 1915), poet and author of gospel hymn texts, was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, the daughter of John Crosby and Mercy Crosby, farmers. (Her mother’s maiden name and married name were the same.) At the age of six weeks, she developed an eye infection, for which a man falsely claiming to be a physician prescribed the application of hot poultices; the tragic result was permanent blindness. That same year her father died, and her mother went to work as a maid. Fanny was first sent to live with her grandmother, and later with a Mrs. Hawley, who realized the child’s precociousness and set her to memorizing much of the Bible. Within two years, Fanny had committed the entire Pentateuch (complete with genealogies), most of the poetic books, and the four Gospels to memory....

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Da Ponte, Lorenzo (10 March 1749–17 August 1838), poet, librettist, and libertine, was born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda (near Venice), Italy, the son of Geremia Conegliano, a tanner and dealer in leather, and Rachele Pincherle. Following the death of his wife in about 1754, Geremia Conegliano wished to marry a Roman Catholic woman and so, together with his three living sons, converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1763. As was customary at the time, the new converts took the surname of the current bishop of Ceneda, Monsignor Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Emanuele, the eldest son, took the prelate’s first name. His conversion and the bishop’s patronage enabled young Lorenzo to receive an excellent education, especially in the Latin and Italian languages, at the episcopal seminary in Ceneda and later at the seminary in the nearby town of Portugruaro. He progressed so rapidly that he became an instructor at the latter institution in 1770, professor of languages in 1771, and vice rector in 1772. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1773, a career decision he was soon to regret....