Features April 2013
The too-brief career of Countee Cullen
One of the Harlem Renaissance’s most important poet’s meteoric rise to fame was followed by a long an series of disappointments.
Countee Cullen in Central Park, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, June 20, 1941
A fast starter and an early finisher: Like many another Wunderkind, Countee Cullen demonstrates how short is the shelf-life of precocity. His poetry first won acclaim while he was in high school; his first book was published upon his graduation from college. From the age of seventeen, Cullen was showered with prizes, culminating with a Guggenheim fellowship when he was twenty-five. “From the beginning Cullen was a poet with a public reputation—a kind of prodigy, whose works were noticed and held up for praise,” Major Jackson writes in an introduction to the Library of America’s handsome edition of Cullen’s collected...
A Message from the Editors
Support our crucial work and join us in strengthening the bonds of civilization.
Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.