X.J. Kennedy. Courtesy NNDB.

X.J. Kennedy (born August 21, 1929) is an American poet, translator, anthologist, and editor, and a writer of children's literature and of student textbooks on English literature and poetry.


Youth and academic careerEdit

Kennedy was born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey. He was long known as Joe Kennedy; but, not wishing to share a name with Joseph P. Kennedy, he later added an "X" as his first initial.[1]

In his youth, under the name Joe Kennedy, Kennedy was an active member of science fiction fandom and published a number of well-regarded science fiction fanzines, including Vampire (a quarterly, 1945–1947) and the Vampire Annuals. He was a member of several amateur press associations, and co-founded the still-extant Spectator Amateur Press Association (SAPS).[2] During this period he began by writing fiction, particularly science fiction, and sold some SF to the pulps.

Kennedy attended Seton Hall (BSc, 1950) and Columbia University (M.A., 1951). After serving for 4 years as an enlisted journalist with the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, he studied at the Sorbonne from 1955 to 56, and spent the next six years pursuing a graduate degree in English at the University of Michigan, but did not complete his Ph.D. He met his future wife Dorothy Mintzlaff while there; she received her Master's degree in English from the University of Michigan in 1956 and completed coursework there toward her doctorate.

Kennedy taught English at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Tufts University (1963-1978), with visiting professorships at Wellesley, UC-Irvine, and Leeds.

Writing careerEdit



In the early 1970's, Kennedy and his wife Dorothy co-edited the influential journal, Counter/Measures, a precursor in the New Formalist movement to The Reaper and The Formalist. He served as poetry editor of The Paris Review, and his poetry has been published in The New Yorker, Poetry, and the Hudson Review. Kennedy became a freelance writer in 1978.

Kennedy is most recognized for his light verse, and was the first recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Michael Braude Award for Light Verse. His first book, Nude Descending a Staircase, won the 1961 Lamont Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets, and his dozens of books have won awards and honors including Guggenheim and National Arts Council fellowships, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine, and a Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry (in 1985 for Cross Ties: Selected Poems), the 1969/70 Shelley Memorial Award, the Golden Rose of the New England Poetry Club, honorary degrees from Lawrence and Adelphi Universities and Westfield State College. Kennedy received the National Council of Teachers of English Year 2000 Award for Excellence in Children's Poetry. He received the 2004 Poets' Prize for his most recent work, The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2002.

Kennedy also wrote a series of dark children's poetry books ("Brats" ), translated Aristophanes' Lysistrata into English and edited the anthology Tygers of Wrath: Poems of Hate, Anger, and Invective (University of Georgia Press, 1981). Kennedy edited several editions of the textbook anthology Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. With his wife Dorothy M. Kennedy and scholar Jane E. Aaron he is the editor of The Bedford Reader, a collegiate literature textbook also used for teaching to the AP English Language and Composition test.

Kennedy and his wife, Dorothy, have 5 children and 6 grandchildren, and live in Lexington, Massachusetts.




  • Nude Descending a Staircase: Poems, song, a ballad. New York: Doubleday, 1961.
  • Growing into Love. New York: Doubleday, 1969.
  • Bulsh. Providence, RI: Burning Deck, 1970.
  • Breaking and Entering. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
  • Emily Dickinson in Southern California. Boston: Godine, 1974.
  • Celebrations after the Death of John Brennan. Lincoln, MA: Penmaen, 1974.
  • Three Tenors, One Vehicle. Columbus, MO: Open Places, 1975.
  • Missing Link. Secaucus, NJ: Scheidt Head, 1983.
  • Hangover Mass. Cleveland, OH: Bits Press, 1984.
  • Cross Ties: Selected poems. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1985.
  • Winter Thunder. Edgewood, KY: Robert L. Barth, 1990.
  • Dark Horses: New poems. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
  • Jimmy Harlow. Chugiak, AK: Salmon Run Press, 1994.
  • In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and selected poems, 1955-2007. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
  • That Swing: Poems, 2008-2016. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.


  • An Introduction to Poetry. Boston: Little, Brown, 1966
  • An Introduction to Fiction. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976
    • 6th edition (with Dana Gioia). New York: HarperCollin, 1995.
  • Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, and drama. Boston: Little, Brown 1976
    • 7th edition (with Dana Gioia). New York: Longman, 1999
    • 3rd compacted edition (with Dana Gioia). New York: Longman, 2002.
  • The Bedford Reader (with Dorothy M. Kennedy). New York: St. Martin's, 1982
    • 4th edition (with Jane E. Aaron), 1991
    • abridged as The Brief Bedford Reader, 1994.
  • The Bedford Guide for College Writers (with Dorothy M. Kennedy). New York: St. Martin's, 1987
    • 4th edition (with Dorothy M. Kennedy and Sylvia A. Holliday), 1996.
  • Writing and Revising: A portable guide (with Marcia F. Muth & Dorothy M. Kennedy). Boston & New York: Bedford / St. Martin’s Press, 2010.



  • One Winter Night in August, and other nonsense jingles (illustrated by David McPhail). New York: McElderry Books, 1975.
  • The Phantom Ice Cream Man: More nonsense verse (illustrated by David McPhail). New York: McElderry Books, 1979.
  • Did Adam Name the Vinegarroon? (illustrated by Heidi Johanna Selig). Boston: Godine, 1982.
  • The Forgetful Wishing Well: Poems for young people (illustrated by Monica Incisa). New York: McElderry Books, 1985.
  • Brats (illustrated by James Watts). New York: McElderry Books, 1986.
  • Ghastlies, Goops, and Pincushions: Nonsense verse (illustrated by Ron Barrett). New York: McElderry Books, 1989.
  • Fresh Brats (illustrated by James Watts). New York: McElderry Books, 1990.
  • The Kite That Braved Old Orchard Beach: Year-round poems for young people (illustrated by Marian Young). New York: McElderry Books, 1991.
  • The Beasts of Bethlehem (illustrated by Michael McCurdy). New York: McElderry Books, 1993.
  • Drat These Brats! (illustrated by James Watts). New York: McElderry Books, 1993.
  • Uncle Switch (illustrated by John O'Brien). New York: McElderry Books, 1997.
  • Elympics (poetry picture book; illustrated by Graham Percy). New York: Philomel, 1999.
  • Elefantina's Dream (poetry picture book; illustrated by Graham Percy). New York: Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
  • Exploding Gravy: Poems to make you laugh (illustrated by Joy Allen). Boston: Little, Brown, 2002.
  • City Kids: Street and skyscraper rhymes (illustrated by Phillippe Béha). Vancouver: Tradewind, 2010.
  • Uncle Switch: Loony limericks (illustated by John O'Brien). Great Neck, NY: StarWalk Kids Media, 2014.


  • The Owlstone Crown (novel; illustrated by Michele Chessare). New York: McElderry Books, 1983.
  • The Eagle as Wide as the World (sequel to The Owlstone Crown). New York: McElderry Books, 1997.



  • Mark Twain's Frontier: A textbook of primary source materials research and writing (edited with James Camp). New York: Holt, 1963.
  • Pegasus Descending: A book of the best bad verse (edite with James Camp & Keith Waldrop). New York: Macmillan, 1971.
  • Messages: A thematic anthology of poetry. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.
  • Tygers of Wrath: Poems of hate, anger and invective. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1981.
  • Knock at a Star: A child's introduction to poetry (compiled with Dorothy M. Kennedy; illustrated by Karen Ann Weinhaus). Boston: Little, Brown, 1982
    • revised, 1999.
  • Talking like the Rain: A first book of poems (compiled with Dorothy M. Kennedy; illustrated by Jane Dyer). Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]

See alsoEdit


  • Morris, Bernard E., Taking Measure: The Poetry and Prose of X.J. Kennedy. Susquehanna University Press, 2003.


  1. Something About the Author ISBN 0810393727, University of Michigan, 1996 page 122
  2. Kennedy, X.J. (as "Joe Kennedy"). "After The Atom: Some fannish memoirs." Holier Than Thou #20 (edited by Marty Cantor) #20, October 1984.
  3. X.J.Kennedy b. 1929, Poetry Foundation, Web, Oct. 21, 2012.

External linksEdit

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