Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978

Alternative names
Birth 1904-01-23
Death 1978-05-12

Biographical notes:

American poet.

From the description of Poetry manuscripts, [193-] (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 18447266

American poet, translator.

From the description of Louis Zukofsky Collection, 1910-1985. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122385750

Louis Zukofsky was born in Manhattan, on the lower east side, in 1904 to Pinchos and Channa Pruss Zukofsky, immigrants from what is now Lithuania. His father's Orthodox Jewish faith eventually became a point of contention between them, but Zukofsky always recognized the influence his immigrant parents' struggle and faith had on him, writing about it in his early work, Poem beginning 'The'; and in various early sections of his life-long poem, A.

The Zukofskys spoke Yiddish at home so Louis did not begin to learn English until he started public school. However he had already been exposed to great writers from Shakespeare to Tolstoy at the Yiddish theater. Zukofsky attended Columbia University where he studied philosophy and English, earning his master's degree in 1926. He also began writing poetry, publishing some of it in student publications.

By 1929 he had made himself known to Ezra Pound, who liked his work and encouraged the editors of Poetry Magazine to have Zukofsky edit a special edition: Objectivists 1931, including works by Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, and William Carlos Williams, all of whom corresponded with and influenced Zukofsky for years to come.

In 1933 Zukofsky found work as a supervisor on a Works Progress Administration project where he met Celia Thaew, a musician and composer. They married in 1939 and had a son, Paul, in 1943. Celia collaborated with Zukofsky on most of his projects after their marriage, composing music for his poetry and typing manuscripts, as well as managing the household.

Despite his early success with Poetry Magazine and An ObjectivistsAnthology (1932), Zukofsky's work remained fairly obscure for the next thirty years and he had significant difficulty finding a publisher. It was not until W.W. Norton agreed to publish the first volume of All: The Collected Short Poems (1966) that publishers began to take a serious interest in his work. If some old friends found Zukofsky bitter by the 1960s, he still had friends and there were many young poets who admired his work. Allen Ginsberg, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Jonathan Williams all count Zukofsky among their influences, and visited and corresponded with him.

Zukofsky's last new work, 80 Flowers (1978), and the final complete version of A were at the publishers waiting to go to press when he died in 1978.

From the guide to the Louis Zukofsky Collection TXRC98-A11., 1910-1985, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, )


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  • Catullus, Gaius Valerius
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Philosophy in literature
  • Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Philosophy


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