Kenneth Patchen

(13 December 1911 - 8 January 1972 / Ohio)

Biography of Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Patchen poet

an American poet and novelist. Though he denied any direct connection, Patchen's work and ideas regarding the role of artists paralleled those of the Dadaists, the Beats, and Surrealists. Patchen's ambitious body of work also foreshadowed literary art-forms ranging from reading poetry to jazz accompaniment to his late experiments with visual poetry (which he called his "picture poems").

In 1911, Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio. His lifelong romance with writing commenced at age twelve, when he took up keeping a diary and reading the works of famous writers. His first published work was in his high school newspaper. After working for two years with his father, Patchen when on to college in Alexander Meiklejohn's Experimental College for one year, and then to the University of Wisconsin. He grew bored of his studies, and began to wander around the US. He continued his writing, and in 1934, he married Miriam Oikemus. Patchen dislocated a disk in his spine, an incessantly painful injury, which he lived with for a span of nearly thirty years, before seeking treatment. He died in 1972.

Over the course of his career, which included about forty books, Patchen tried his hand at several types of poetry: concrete poetry, drama, prose, jazz, verse, and the anti-novel. He even published self-illustrated writings, in his own words, were "painted books." Henry Miller called Patchen "The Man of Anger and Light". In his lifetime, he produced many books and poems. His poetry on atrocities of war is especially remembered.

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The Artist's Duty

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous
To establish problem
To ignore solutions
To listen to no one
To omit nothing
To contradict everything

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