Kenneth Rexroth

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Kenneth Rexroth (born December 22, 1905 in South Bend , Indiana , † June 6, 1982 in Santa Barbara , California ) was an American poet , essayist and literary critic . He is considered a "father" of the Beat Generation .


Kenneth Rexroth Street in North Beach, San Francisco

Rexroth, who largely acquired his education himself, initially worked as a simple worker in the 1920s. During the 1930s he became a well-known leader of the libertarian movement on the west coast of the United States . A few years later he began to write and poetry . In 1940 he published his first volume of poetry entitled "In What Hour?" He was then involved, along with other well-known writers, including Conrad Aiken , Nelson Algren , Saul Bellow , John Cheever , Ralph Ellison , John Steinbeck , Claude McKay , Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, in the Federal Writers' Project , a job creation scheme of the American New Deal Government whose most famous product was the now famous state leaders. In the Great Depression, writers were also able to earn their wages and salaries.

During World War II Rexroth refused military service and worked as a nurse in a hospital in San Francisco . In 1945 he founded the Libertarian Circle in San Francisco , which painters like Ronald Bladen also joined. In April 1947 Rexroth appeared next to Robert Duncan , Jack Spicer and other poets at the "Festival of Modern Poetry" organized by Madeline Gleason. It was the first of its kind in San Francisco and the beginning of the San Francisco Renaissance . Rexroth is seen as the founding father of this renaissance. Rexroth, however, belonged to the second generation of “modernist poetry”, the “objectivist poets”. He held correspondence with Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams . He was heavily influenced by jazz and was one of the first American poets to study Japanese poetry ( haiku ).

In the following years there were other publications such as:

  • "The Signature of All Things", 1950
  • "The Dragon and the Unicorn", 1952
  • "In Defense of the Earth", 1965
  • "Collected Shorter Poems", 1967
  • "Longer Works", 1968

On October 7, 1955, he moderated a reading (also referred to by some as jamming) of poems that was held at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It was the first major public reading by Beat Generation writers and was the continuation of the San Francisco Renaissance. He had previously introduced young authors such as Allen Ginsberg and Kenneth Patchen in his weekly salon for a long time . Later he was one of the authors who took part in the poetry readings organized by the Esalen Institute .

The most important literary-critical treatises finally appeared in 1972 under the title "The Rexroth Reader". In 1973 he was editor of the anthology "Four Young Women - Poems", in which poems by the young poets Jessica Hagedorn , Alice Karle, Barbara Szerlip and Carol Tinker appeared.

He published together with Ikoko Atsumi in 1977

in which he dealt with the Japanese poets Ono no Komachi and Ise , who belong to the so-called "Thirty-six Immortals of Poetry" (Sanjūrokkasen) .

Most recently he published in the literary magazine "Die Aktion - Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur, Kunst", founded in 1981 . Since 1969 he was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters .

German-language editions

  • Falling leaves, early snow . 10 poems. From the American by Reinhard and Ingrid Harbaum. Altaquito, Göttingen 1988, ISBN 3-923588-20-8
  • Disengagement. The art of the beat generation . An essay. From the American by Hanfried Blume. Göttingen 1990, ISBN 3-923588-23-2
  • Letter from San Francisco. Two essays on American literature . Altaquito, Göttingen 1994, ISBN 3-923588-30-5
  • The love poems of Marichiko. Sixty poems . From the American by Reinhard Harbaum. Göttingen 1996, ISBN 3-923588-40-2
  • The city of the moon. Late poems . Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-923588-49-6
  • The red cliff. Kenneth Rexroth passes on Su Tung P'o . Edition Saxifraga, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-923588-74-9
  • The bestiary . Translated from the US by Mitch Cohen and Wolfgang Heyder. German and English. Corvinus Presse, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-942280-07-5

Background literature

  • Morgan Gibson: Kenneth Rexroth (Twayne's United States authors series; 208). Twayne, New York 1972 (biography).


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Members: Kenneth Rexroth. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed April 21, 2019 .