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Definition: Hayden, Robert E(arl) from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


US poet

He was born in Detroit, and brought up by foster parents. He worked as a researcher for the Federal Writers' Project from 1936 to 1940, in which year he published his first collection, Heart-Shape in the Dust (1940). His Selected Poems (1966) reveals a profound and compassionate insight into the African-American experience. He became the first black poet to be invited to take up the prestigious office of Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His Collected Poems appeared posthumously in 1985.

Summary Article: Robert E. Hayden (1913–1980)
from African American Almanac

Robert E. Hayden, a graduate of Detroit City College (now Wayne State University), who was chief researcher on African American history and folklore for the Federal Writers Project in 1936, later accomplished advanced work in English, play production, and creative writing at the University of Michigan. While there, he won the Jule and Avery Hopwood Prize for poetry twice. Hay-den also completed radio scripts and a finished version of a play about the Underground Railroad, Go Down Moses.

His first book of poems, Heart Shape in the Dust, was published in 1940 shortly before he assumed the music and drama critic function for the Michigan Chronicle. He taught at Fisk University from 1946 to the early 1970s and later at the University of Michigan. His works include The Lion and the Archer (with Myron O'Higgins); A Ballad of Remembrance; Selected Poems; Words in the Mourning Time; and The Night-Blooming Cereus. His other books include Figure of Time; Angle of Ascent: New and Selected Poems; and American Journal (poems). In 1975 the Academy of American Poets elected him its Fellow of the Year, and in 1976 he was awarded the Grand Prize for Poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. From 1976 to 1978 he served as consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress. He was a professor of English at the University of Michigan at the time of his death on February 25, 1980.

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