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Kenneth Patchen Biography

(1911–72), Before the Brave, The Teeth of the Lion, Pictures of Life and Death

poems social life poet

American poet, born in Niles, Ohio, briefly attended the University of Wisconsin and the Commonwealth College, Arkansas, but did not complete his studies. Patchen was an abstract expressionist painter as well as a poet. His first book of poems was Before the Brave (1936), followed by The Teeth of the Lion (1942), Pictures of Life and Death (1946), Because It Is (1960), Collected Poems (1968), and There's Love All Day: Poems (1970). His prose poems were collected as Panels for the Walls of Heaven (1947) and The Famous Boating Party (1954). His prose work includes The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941), and two novels, the satirical Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer (1945) and See You in the Morning (1948). Reflecting his membership of that disaffected anti-establishment culture that came to maturity in the post-Depression years, there are two dominant strains in Patchen's work. The first is that of the social polemicist raging against the brash materialism of American common culture and the way it condemns its citizens to a life of social and imaginative impoverishment. In this mode, Patchen's tone is deliberately strident, attacking the enemy in its own vulgar tongue. His other mode shows a greater continuity between his poetry and his painting, where his free verse forms seem to seek the consolations of some other, almost transcendental or symbolist reality, to set against the impoverishments of the personal life and social world.

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