Rexroth, Kenneth

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Rexroth, Kenneth

Kenneth Rexroth, 1905–82, American poet, critic, and translator, b. South Bend, Ind. A resident of San Francisco, he was briefly associated with the beat generation, although he disdained their lack of discipline. Self-educated, he taught himself several languages; his translations include One Hundred Poems from the Japanese (1956) and The Orchid Boat: Women Poets of China (with Ling Chung, 1973). He is best known, however, for his own poetry. Modernist in his early life, simple and Zenlike in his later years, his verse is unified by autobiographical content, a mingling of the personal with the political, and a concern with the transience of life and the transcendent joys of nature and eros. His verse collections include In What Hour (1940), The Phoenix and the Tortoise (1944), In Defense of the Earth (1956), and New Poems (1974). He also wrote one volume of verse plays, Beyond the Mountains (1951), and several volumes of essays, including Bird in the Bush (1959), Alternative Society: Essays from the Other World (1970), and Communalism: From Its Origins to the 20th Century (1975).

See S. Hamill and B. Morrow, ed., The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (2003); biography by L. Hamalian (1991); studies by M. Gibson (1972 and 1986), L. Bartlett (1988), K. Knabb (1990), and D. Gutierrez (1996).

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