Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905-1982

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1905-12-22
Death 1982-06-06
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Born Dec. 22, 1905 in South Bend, IN; campaigned for many radical groups, particularly the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), and espoused eroticism and general anarchy; influenced by poet William Carlos Williams and the Second Chicago Renaissance; founded San Francisco Poetry Center with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg; although his Bohemian lifestyle was emulated by Beats, he did not like the movement for its artistic excess and lack of rigor; noted as an accomplished painter with one-man shows throughout the world; translated poems from the Chinese and Japanese languages; died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, CA.

From the description of Papers, ca. 1925-1979. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 38128847

Author, painter.

From the description of Reminiscences of Kenneth Rexroth : oral history, 1977. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122632004

American painter, poet, critic, translator, and playwright Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth was born in 1905 in South Bend, Indiana. After being expelled from a Chicago high school, Rexroth worked as a soda jerk, clerk, wrestler, and reporter to support himself. Although he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, he was largely self-educated in the literary salons, nightclubs, lecture halls, and hobo camps he frequented in the 1920s. In his youth Rexroth traveled extensively in the United States, Mexico, and Europe, and backpacked frequently in the American wilderness. During this time he worked as a forest ranger, harvester, fruit packer, factory hand, and mental institution attendant. He also became something of a political radical, allying himself with various avant garde and leftist organizations, and developing what would become lifelong interests in eroticism, anarchy, mysticism, and Eastern philosophy. In the 1940s New Directions published Rexroth's first poetry collections "In What Hour" and "The Phoenix and the Tortoise." Both works encapsulated Rexroth's pacifistic, anti-establishment ethos, represented his interest in the natural and erotic, and alluded to classical poets from the East and West. In the late 1940s, Rexroth launched the San Francisco Renaissance, promoting the work of poets like William Everson, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Denise Levertov on a weekly radio show. His poetry and lifestyle also clearly influenced Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and other Beat poets, though Rexroth would eventually come to disapprove of the Beat movement, and was displeased when he became known as the father of the Beats. In the 1960s, Rexroth brought national public attention to world literature poetry in translation through his "Classics Revisited" column in the Saturday Review and his anthologies of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Recognized by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964, he went on to publish collections of his shorter poems and longer poems in 1967 and 1968. From 1968 through 1974 he taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1974, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Japan, and in 1975 he received the Copernicus Award from the Academy of American Poets in recognition of a poet's lifetime work and contribution to poetry as a cultural force. Rexroth died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, California.

From the description of Kenneth Rexroth papers, 1940-1982 (bulk 1969-1981). (San Leandro Community Library). WorldCat record id: 700957718

Kenneth Rexroth was an American poet and artist, but such a simple description belies the complex, iconoclastic, and eclectic nature of the man and his work. An accomplished painter and poet in his teens, he bounced around in a variety of odd jobs across the country. As the century wore on, published works and private shows established and confirmed his talents. Also a translator, playwright, and essayist, he is best remembered as an experimental poet, with influences ranging from Buddhism to jazz, and including a brief association with the Beats.

From the description of Kenneth Rexroth letter to Terence Tiller, 1946 March. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 54927059

Painter, mural painter; San Francisco, Calif.

d. 1982.

From the description of Oral history interview with Kenneth Rexroth, 1964 Apr. 13. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 317592412

Painter, mural painter; San Francisco, Calif.

Died 1982.

From the description of Kenneth Rexroth interviews, 1964 Apr. 13. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220189648

Painter, mural painter; San Francisco, Calif.

d. 1982.

From the description of Kenneth Rexroth interviews, 1964 Apr. 13 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 312025050

Biography

American painter, poet, critic, translator, and playwright Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth was born in 1905 in South Bend, Indiana. After being expelled from a Chicago high school, Rexroth worked as a soda jerk, clerk, wrestler, and reporter to support himself. Although he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, he was largely self-educated in the literary salons, nightclubs, lecture halls, and hobo camps he frequented in the 1920s. In his youth Rexroth traveled extensively in the United States, Mexico, and Europe, and backpacked frequently in the American wilderness. During this time he worked as a forest ranger, harvester, fruit packer, factory hand, and mental institution attendant. He also became something of a political radical, allying himself with various avant garde and leftist organizations, and developing what would become lifelong interests in eroticism, anarchy, mysticism, and Eastern philosophy. In the 1940s New Directions published Rexroth's first poetry collections "In What Hour" and "The Phoenix and the Tortoise." Both works encapsulated Rexroth's pacifistic, anti-establishment ethos, represented his interest in the natural and erotic, and alluded to classical poets from the East and West. In the late 1940s, Rexroth launched the San Francisco Renaissance, promoting the work of poets like William Everson, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Denise Levertov on a weekly radio show. His poetry and lifestyle also clearly influenced Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and other Beat poets, though Rexroth would eventually come to disapprove of the Beat movement, and was displeased when he became known as the father of the Beats. In the 1960s, Rexroth brought national public attention to world literature poetry in translation through his "Classics Revisited" column in the Saturday Review and his anthologies of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Recognized by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964, he went on to publish collections of his shorter poems and longer poems in 1967 and 1968. From 1968 through 1974 he taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1974, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Japan, and in 1975 he received the Copernicus Award from the Academy of American Poets in recognition of a poet's lifetime work and contribution to poetry as a cultural force. Rexroth died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, California.

From the guide to the Kenneth Rexroth papers, Bulk, 1969-1981, 1940-1982, (USC Libraries Special Collections)

Biography

Born December 22, 1905 in South Bend, Indiana; campaigned for many radical groups, particularly the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), and espoused eroticism and general anarchy; influenced by poet William Carlos Williams and the Second Chicago Renaissance; founded San Francisco Poetry Center with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg; although his Bohemian lifestyle was emulated by Beats, he did not like the movement for its artistic excess and lack of rigor; noted as an accomplished painter with one-man shows throughout the world; translated poems from the Chinese and Japanese languages; died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, California.

Expanded Biographical Narrative

Kenneth Rexroth (22 Dec. 1905- 6 June 1982) was born in Southwest Indiana. His family lived in various Midwestern cities until he was orphaned in 1919, and moved in with an aunt in Chicago. Rexroth pursued a vigorous self-education while working odd jobs, backpacking across the country, and writing poetry; his early work was strongly influenced by Chicago's Second Renaissance. He married Andrée Schafer in 1927, and the couple moved to San Francisco. During the early 1930s, Rexroth became involved in the Communist party's John Reed Clubs. During this time he developed friendships with other leftist poets. In the mid-1930s, Rexroth participated in the Federal Writers' Project, and published some of his poetry in journals and little magazines. His lifelong friendship with prominent New Directions publisher James Laughlin was established at this time.

In 1938 Rexroth shifted his Communist-based political ideologies to an ecologically informed pacifism. He married Marie Kass following his first wife's death in 1940, and registered as a conscientious objector during World War II. Rexroth established a philosophy club and hosted discussion salons that attracted other West coast intellectuals and poets, and became known as the father of the Beat generation.

Rexroth received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1948 and traveled extensively across Europe and the United States. He fathered his two daughters, Katharine and Mary, by philosophy student Marthe Larsen. In addition to his weekly radio show and writings, Rexroth began to read poetry with live jazz accompaniment at popular performances. After Kass divorced him in 1955, Rexroth wed Larsen in 1958; they divorced in 1961.

In the 1960s Rexroth supported both civil rights struggles and the anti-war movement. Disassociating himself from his radical past and cultural affiliation with Beatniks and Bohemians, Rexroth became more aligned with the mainstream media and was a regular essayist for the Saturday Review and San Francisco Examiner . Rexroth received a National Institute of Arts and Letters award in 1964. He became a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1968-1974), where he taught popular writing courses. His later poems were greatly influenced by Eastern philosophy and the work of Japanese and Chinese poets; he also became known for his poetry translations. In 1974 and 1975, Rexroth won a Fulbright to Japan and a Copernicus Award for lifetime achievement. He married his fourth wife, Carol Tinker, in 1974. He died in Santa Barbara in 1982.

Rexroth's poetry publications include: In What Hour (1940), The Phoenix and the Tortoise (1944), The Signature of All Things (1949), In Defense of the Earth (1956), Natural Numbers (1963), Elastic Retort (1973), New Poems (1974), and Flower Wreath Hill (1991). His translations include 100 Poems from the Chinese (1956), 100 Poems from the Japanese (1964), Pierre Reverdy, Selected Poems (1969), Love and the Turning Year (1970), Orchid Boat (1972), 100 Poems from the French (1972), and 100 More Poems from the Japanese (1976).

From the guide to the Kenneth Rexroth papers, 1853-1986, (bulk 1950-1975), (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

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Subjects:

  • Federal aid to the arts
  • Poetry--Archival resources
  • Painters--Interviews
  • Poets--Interviews
  • Beat generation--Archival resources
  • Women--History
  • Muralists--Interviews
  • Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Mural painting and decoration
  • Art, American
  • Poetry, Modern--20th century--United States
  • Authors, American--California--20th century--Archival resources
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archival resources
  • American poetry--20th century--Archival resources
  • Poetry, Modern--20th century
  • Poets--Archival resources
  • Authors, American--Archival resources

Occupations:

  • Translator
  • Authors, American--Archival resources

Places:

  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)