Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy birthday, poet X.J. Kennedy

It is the birthday of poet and writer X.J. Kennedy (1929), who is known not only for his lighthearted verse, but also for his poetry and literature textbooks for college students as well as his children's books.

Kennedy was known as Joe Kennedy as a young man and published science fiction magazines in the 1940s but people kept saying he was related to Joseph P. Kennedy, then-ambassador to Great Britain, (which he is not) so he added an X in front of his name on a couple of pieces that were published in The New Yorker. They were his first published poetry. "He stuck the X on and has been stuck with it ever since," says his Web site.

Kennedy's first book of poetry, Nude Descending a Staircase (1961) the title of which seems to be a play on the 1887 stop-action photographic images by Eadweard Muybridge and the 1912 painting by Marcel Duchamp. Kennedy's book won several awards and began his career as a poet. Other Kennedyt titles include Breaking and Entering (1971), Missing Link (1983), Hangover Mass (1984), Cross Ties: Selected Poems (1985, and The Lords of Misrule: Poems (2002).

Among his numerous textbooks, Kennedy's popular Introduction to Poetry, (first published in 1976) is in its 12th edition.Introduction to Fiction (1976) is in its 10th edition.

He has to his credit at least 20 children's books, including One Winter Night in August (1975), Brats (1986), Ghastlies, Goops, and Pincushions (1989) and Exploding Gravy: Poems to Make You Laugh (2002).

Here is his reading of Lonesome George, a poem about the celebrated Galapagos turtle, the last of his kind, that died recently.

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