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Louis Zukofsky

Louis Zukofsky (1904 - 1978) was one of the most important second-generation American modernist poets. He was co-founder of the Objectivist group of poets and was to be an important influence on subsequent generations of poets in America and abroad.

Early Life

He was born in New York of Lithuanian Jewish parents and grew up speaking Yiddish. In 1924, he graduated with a Master's degree in English from Columbia. He began writing at this time and his early poetry was promoted by Ezra Pound.


In his early years, Zukofsky was a committed Marxist, but his sense that experimental work such as his own, added to his own sense of the importance of his private, domestic life, caused him to move away from the Communist Party from the early 1930s.

Zukofsky the Objectivist

Zukofsky was one of the founders of the Objectivist group of poets and of To Publishers later the Objectivist Press, along with Charles Reznikoff and George Oppen. He edited the Objectivist issue of Poetry, in which he both coined the term and defined the two main characteristics of Objectivist poetry as sincerity and clarification. Other poets associated with this group included William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Lorine Niedecker, Carl Rakosi, and Kenneth Rexroth.



His major work was the long poem A, which he began in 1927 and was to work on for the rest of his life. The extensive use of music in this work reflects the importance of Zukofsky's collaborations with his wife Celia, a professional musician. Their son Paul Zukofsky is a noted violin player.

Late Revival

Having suffered critical neglect for most of his career, Zukofsky, along with the other Objectivists, was rediscovered by the Beats and other experimental poets in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, he was a major influence on many of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=e poets. The complete A was at the printers when the poet died in 1978.

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