John Gould Fletcher was an Imagist poet, author and authority on modern painting. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to a socially prominent family. After attending Phillips Academy, Andover Fletcher went on to Harvard University from 1903 to 1907, when he dropped out shortly after his father's death.
Fletcher lived in England for a large portion of his life. While in Europe he associated with Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, and other Imagist poets, he was one of the six Imagists who adopted the name and stuck to it until their aims were achieved. Fletcher resumed a liaison with Florence Emily “Daisy” Arbuthnot (née Goold) at her house in Kent. She had been married to Malcolm Arbuthnot and Fletcher's adultery with her was the grounds for the divorce. The couple married on July 5, 1916. Their marriage produced no children, but Arbuthnot’s son and daughter from her previous marriage lived with the couple.
On January 18, 1936 he married a noted author of children's books, Charlie May Simon. The two of them built "Johnswood", a residence on the bluffs of the Arkansas River outside Little Rock. They traveled frequently, however, to New York for the intellectual stimulation and to the American Southwest for the climate, after Fletcher began to suffer from arthritis.
Fletcher suffered from depression and on May 20, 1950 committed suicide by drowning in a pond near his home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Fletcher is buried at historic Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, and a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System is named in his honor.
His early works include Irradiations: Sand and Spray (1915), and Goblins and Pagodas (1916). Amy Lowell said of him , 'no one is more absolute master of the rhythm of verse libre. Fletcher invented the term 'polyphonic prose' to describe some poetic experiments of Amy Lowell, a form he himself, also experimented with in his Goblins& Pagodas. In later poetic works Fletcher returned to more traditional forms. These include The Black Rock (1928), Selected Poems (1938), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1939, and The Burning Mountain (1946). Fletcher later returned to his home in Arkansas and reconnected with his roots. The subject of his works turned increasingly towards Southern issues and Traditionalism.
In the late 1920s and 1930s he was active with a group of 11 other Southern writers and poets known as the Southern Agrarians. This group published the classic Agrarian manifesto I'll Take My Stand, a collection of essays rejecting Modernity and Industrialism. In 1937 he wrote his autobiography, Life is My Song, and in 1947 he published Arkansas, a beautifully written history of his home state.
Like a gaunt, scraggly pine
Which lifts its head above the mournful sandhills;
At the first hour, it was as if one said, "Arise."
At the second hour, it was as if one said, "Go forth."
And the winter constellations that are like patient ox-eyes
Sank below the white horizon at the north.
In the morning I saw three great ships
Becalmed on an infinite horizon.