Kenneth fearing

Kenneth Fearing. Courtesy Hell in a Kiss.

Kenneth Flexnor Fearing (July 28, 1902 - June 26, 1961) was an American poet and novelist, and a founding editor of the Partisan Review

Poet Kenneth Rexroth placed Fearing with the earliest "poets of the contemporary American city."[1] while literary critic Macha Rosenthal called him "the chief poet of the American Depression."[2]



Fearing was born in Oak Park, Illinois,the son of Olive (Flexner) and Harry Lester Fearing, a successful Chicago attorney. His parents divorced when he was a year old, and he was raised mainly by his aunt, Eva (Fearing) Scholl. He went to school at Oak Park and River Forest High School, and was editor of the student paper, as was his predecessor Ernest Hemingway. After studying at the University of Illinois in Urbana and the University of Wisconsin, Fearing moved to New York City where he began a career as a poet and was active in leftist politics.

Literary careerEdit

In the 1920s and 1930s, he published regularly in The New Yorker and helped found The Partisan Review, while also working as an editor, journalist, and speechwriter and turning out a good deal of pulp fiction. Some of Fearing's pulp fiction was soft-core pornography, often published under the pseudonym Kirk Wolff.[3]

A selection of Fearing's poems has been published as part of the Library of America's American Poets Project. His complete poetic works, edited by Robert M. Ryley, were published by the National Poetry Foundation in 1994.

Fearing published several collections of poetry including Angel Arms (1929), Dead Reckoning (1938), Afternoon of a Pawnbroker and other poems (1943), Stranger at Coney Island and other poems (1948), and seven novels including The Big Clock (1946).

Fearing died in 1961, of malignant melanoma, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

From 1923-1928, Fearing had a relationship with fellow writer Margery Latimer. In 1931, he met Rachel Meltzer, and they married on April 26, 1933. Their only child, poet Bruce Fearing, was born on July 19, 1935. Their marriage collapsed in 1942, partly due to Fearing's growing alcoholism. They divorced in 1943. Fearing married artist Nan Lurie on June 18, 1945. They separated in 1952.



  • Angel Arms. New York: Coward McCann, 1929.
  • Poems. New York: Dynamo, 1935.
  • Dead Reckoning: A book of poetry. New York: Random House, 1938.
  • Collected Poems of Kenneth Fearing. New York: Random House, 1940.
  • Afternoon of a Pawnbroker, and other poems. New York: Harcourt, 1943.
  • Stranger at Coney Island, and other poems. New York: Harcourt, 1948.
  • New and Selected Poems. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1956.


  • The Hospital. New York: Random House, 1939.
  • Dagger of the Mind. New York: Random House, 1941
    • also published as "Cry Killer!". New York: Avon, 1958.
  • Clark Gifford's Body. New York: Random House, 1942.
  • The Big Clock. New York: Harcourt, 1946
    • as No Way Out. New York: Perennial, 1980.
  • John Barry. New York: Creative Age Press (New York, NY), 1947.
  • Loneliest Girl in the World (with Donald Friede and H. Bedford Jones under joint pseudonym "Donald F. Bedford") . New York: Harcourt, 1951
    • as The Sound of Murder. New York: Spivak, 1952.
  • The Generous Heart. New York: Harcourt, 1954.
  • The Crozart Story. New York: Doubleday, 1960.
    "Dirge" by Kenneth Fearing (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

    "Dirge" by Kenneth Fearing (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[5]

See alsoEdit



  1. Kenneth Fearing biography, eNotes. Web, Aug. 7, 2014.
  2. Fearing, Kenneth; Ryley, Robert M. (1994). Complete poems. Orono, Me.: The National Poetry Foundation. ISBN 978-0-943373-25-6. 
  3. Cary Nelson, editor, (2000) An Online Journal and Multimedia Companion to Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Oxford University Press
  4. Ryley, Robert M.. "Kenneth Fearing's Life". Modern American Poetry. Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From Kenneth Fearing: Complete Poems. Ed. and with an Introduction by Robert M. Ryley. The National Poetry Foundation, 1994. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  5. Kenneth Fearing 1902-1961, Poetry Foundation, Web, Sep. 12, 2012.

External linksEdit

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