Louis Zukofsky was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants and was reared on the lower East Side of New York City. His father, a religious and deeply sensitive man, was a presser in a clothing factory; his mother was a gaunt, quiet, introspective woman. Zukofsky’s first introduction to literature was through the Yiddish poems and stories read in his home, together with the plays produced at the renowned Thalia theater. In particular, he was attracted to the work of Solomon Bloomgarten, who wrote under the pen name Yehoash (an acronym of the initials of his Hebrew name) and earned much admiration for both his own poetry and for his Yiddish translations of major English and American poems. Zukofsky first read untranslated English literature in the public schools of New York. He began to write poetry in high school, then at Columbia University, where he was encouraged to continue by his professor, Mark Van Doren. Zukofsky received an M.A. degree from Columbia in 1924.
Zukofsky’s first submission to Poetry was a translation of Yehoash, which was not published. His own work (“Of Dying Beauty”) first appeared in the journal in January, 1924, and he published Poem Beginning “The” in Exile, a journal edited by Ezra Pound, who saw in the young poet a literary heir. Pound dedicated his own Guide to Kulchur (1938) to Zukofsky (along with the English poet Basil Bunting), promoted his work in Exile, and persuaded...
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