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Fearing, Kenneth


FEARING, KENNETH (1902–1961), U.S. poet and novelist. Fearing was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Wisconsin and later settled in New York. He is regarded as a significant voice in 20th-century American poetry. His verse, mainly satirical, was written in the vernacular and gave expression to the nightmarish quality of urban life during the late 1930s and 1940s. His first volume of poetry, Angel Arms, was published in 1929. This was followed by Poems (1935), Dead Reckoning (1938), Collected Poems (1940), Afternoon of a Pawnbroker (1943), Stranger at Coney Island (1948), and New and Selected Poems (1956). The movies, newspapers, comic strips, radio, and advertising were all targets for his mordant attacks, as was the American faith in success and wealth. Fearing's effects are achieved by a mastery of objective presentation, which anticipated the surrealist manner, pop poetry, and concrete trends of a later generation of American poets. Fearing's first novel, The Hospital (1939) was followed by The Dagger in the Mind (1941); Clark Gifford's Body (1942); The Big Clock (1946), the story of a manhunt; The Loneliest Girl in the World (1951); The Generous Heart (1954); and The Crozart Story (1960).


S.J. Kunitz (ed.), Twentieth Century Authors (First Supplement) (1955), 319. add. bibliography: R. Barnard, The Great Depression and the Culture of Abundance: Kenneth Fearing, Nathanael West and Mass Culture in the 1930s (1995); A. Anderson, Fear Ruled Them All: Kenneth Fearing's Literature of Corporate Conspiracy (2003).

[David Ignatow]

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