Monday, May 30, 2011

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen born 30 May 1903 (d. 1946)

Countee Cullen was an American Romantic poet. Cullen was one of the leading African American poets of his time, associated with the generation of black poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Cullen was born with the name Countee LeRoy Porter and was abandoned by his parents at birth. He was raised by his grandmother, Mrs Porter, but because he was very secretive about his life, it is unclear where he was actually born. Scholars state he was either born in Louisville, Kentucky, or Baltimore. Later in his life, Cullen said he was born in New York City. It is known that he attended Townsend Harris High School for one year and then transferred to DeWitt Clinton High School in New York and received special honours in Latin studies in 1922.

In 1918 his grandmother died. Cullen was subsequently adopted by Reverend Frederick Ashbury Cullen, minister at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, and thus Cullen was raised a Methodist. Throughout his unstable childhood his birth mother never attempted to contact Cullen, and would not attempt to do so until sometime in the 1920s, after he'd become famous.

Cullen won many poetry contests from a very young age and often had his winning work reprinted. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, mainly consisting of all white, male students. He became Vice President of his class during his senior year, was also involved in the school magazine as an editor, and was affiliated with the Arista Honor Society.

After completing his secondary education, Cullen attended New York University. While an undergraduate, he published works in various literary magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, and Poetry. Also, his writing exceptional faculties were acknowledged with prizes from The Crisis, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity of the National Urban League. He graduated in 1925. Soon afterwards, he produced his first volume entitled Color and pursued graduate studies at Harvard University.

In April 1928, Cullen married Nina Yolande Du Bois, daughter of the famous W. E. B. Du Bois. Two months after the wedding, Cullen left for Europe with his father and Harold Jackman; his wife followed after a month. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928.

Nina Yolande Du Bois divorced Cullen two years later, saying that he told her that he was sexually attracted to men.

In 1940, he married Ida Mae Roberson and they enjoyed a seemingly happy marriage.

On January 9, 1946, Cullen unexpectedly died of uremic poisoning and complications from high blood pressure. After his death, for a few years, Cullen was honoured as the most celebrated African American writer. A collection of some of his best work was also arranged in On These I Stand.

The West 136th Street branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem is named after Countee Cullen

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Blogger Are You Outside the Lines? said...

Great concept for a site! Kudos to you for all of this hard work. I was thrilled to find 24 poets here.

I hope it's not too brash, but if you'd consider a post on my book, which interviews 12 of the biggest name poets in the US (including Thom Gunn, a Brit by birth), I'd be grateful. You can get the details on the book at my blog.

Again, great work!

2:05 pm  
Blogger Peter Rivendell said...

Outside the Lines - Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets by Christopher Hennessy is published by the University of Michigan Press.

Christopher Hennessy is a freelance writer living in Boston who publishes frequently in national and international gay literary publications. He is associate editor at the Gay and Lesbian Review--Worldwide.

Editor Christopher Hennessy gathers interviews with some of the most significant figures in contemporary American poetry. While each poet is gay, these encompassing, craft-centered interviews reflect the diversity of their respective arts and serve as a testament to the impact gay poets have had and will continue to have on contemporary poetics.

The book includes twelve frank, intense interviews with some of America's best-known and loved poets, who have not only enjoyed wide critical acclaim but who have had lasting impact on both the gay tradition and the contemporary canon writ large, for example, Frank Bidart, the late Thom Gunn, and J. D. McClatchy. Some of the most honored and respected poets, still in the middle of their careers, are also included, for example, Mark Doty, Carl Phillips, and Reginald Shepherd. Each interview explores the poet's complete work to date, often illuminating the poet's technical evolution and emotional growth, probing shifts in theme, and even investigating links between verse and sexuality.

In addition to a selected bibliography of works by established poets, the book also includes a list of works by newer and emerging poets who are well on their way to becoming important voices of the new millennium.

10:32 pm  
Blogger Are You Outside the Lines? said...


1:47 pm  
Blogger Peter Rivendell said...

Plenty more poets to come in the forthcoming months. Gay For Today will not be 'complete' until 31 December 2007 - and will probably be added to for ever more.

3:12 pm  
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12:20 am  

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