Robert Hayden

American poet, Robert Earl Hayden, born in Detroit, MI on August 4, 1913 had a reputation for finely crafted and powerfully meditative poems. He was raised in a poor neighborhood in Detroit. He was shuttled between the home of his parents and that of a foster family, who lived next door for most of his childhood. Because of impaired vision, he was unable to participate in sports, but was able to spend his time reading. In 1932 he graduated from high school and, with the help of a scholarship, attended Detroit City College (later Wayne State University). Hayden published his first book of poems, Heart Shape in the Dust, in 1940. He enrolled in a graduate English Literature program at the University of Michigan where he studied with W.H. Auden. Auden became an influential critical guide in the development of Haydens writing. He had an interest in African-American history and explored his concerns about race in his writing. Some of his most famous works are Those Winter Sundays, Middle Passages, The Diver, and Words in the Mourning Time. Haydens poetry gained international recognition in the 1960s and he was awarded the grand prize for poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966 for his book Ballad of Remembrance. In 1976, he became the first black American to be appointed as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He died in Ann Arbor, MI February 25, 1980.