KAY BOYLE was born on February 19, 1902, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the youngest of two daughters of Katherine Evans Boyle and Howard Peterson Boyle.A wealthy family, the Boyles lived in Atlantic City, Washington, and Bryn Mawr before settling in Cincinnati after the ruin of the family business. Seemingly prey to every childhood disease and ultimately refusing to attend school at all, Kay had little formal education. Her mother, convinced that Kay was a genius, encouraged her to write and exposed Kay and her sister, Janet, to the works of modern writers and artists; Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons was a favorite book often read aloud.
In 1922, Kay moved to New York, where she worked at the magazine Broom, wrote book reviews for The Dial, and studied creative writing at Columbia University.A published poet at the age of 21, Boyle left New York for France and married Richard Brault.By 1926, however, she had left Brault and was living with Irish-American poet and editor Ernest Walsh. Boyle's work was published frequently in Walsh's This Quarter and Eugene Jolas's transition. Walsh died of consumption the year Boyle joined him, and six months after his death, their daughter was born.
Living in England in 1927, Boyle published 10 poems, the first part of Plagued by the Nightingale, five short stories, and a review. Increasingly, she was the central figure in her poetry and prose. Although impoverished and alone in Paris in 1928, Boyle became popular among the expatriates and numbered among her friends Harry and Caresse Crosby, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Hart Crane, and Robert McAlmon.She knew Gertrude Stein and Robert Duncan, the brother of dancer Isadora, whose "simple life movement" was an important influence. Harry Crosby published Boyle's first book, Short Stories, in 1929.
In Paris, Boyle married the painter and surrealist Laurence Vail and continued to write stories, poems, the rest of Plagued by the Nightingale ( 1931), and the novels Year Before Last ( 1932), Gentlemen, I Address You Privately ( 1933), My Next Bride ( 1934), and the disturbingly pro-Fascist Death of a Man ( 1936). In 1936, she left Vail for the anti‐ Fascist Austrian baron Joseph Franckenstein and returned to the United States for the duration of the war.