Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio in 1911. He went to work in a steel mill at seventeen to earn money for college, where he was a football and track athlete. Between 1930 and 1934 he worked at odd jobs (fruit-picker, janitor, gardener, etc.). After college he went ”on the road” writing and reading to whomever would listen, developing the powerful poetic style of a veritable bard, for which he is known. In 1937 an accident condemned him to a violent spinal disability that tormented him for the rest of his life. During World War II he firmly denounced war when it was very unpopular to do so. Later he toured jazz clubs in the US and Canada, giving spontaneous incantations on the upbeat of jazz improvizations. Many calamitous operations on his back (he once fell off the operating table) did little to relieve his agony. He withdrew from public life. He made astonishing editions of ”painted books” that evoke Blake’s. He achieved illumination like that of Rimbaud. He died in Palo Alto, California in 1972, at the age of sixty-one.

Kenneth Patchen homepage (source: Kenneth Patchen, Larry R. Smith, Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1978.)

"Man with a flower"

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