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...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now