Louis Zukofsky was, in many ways, a poet’s poet, who won the admiration of such contemporaries as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams for his innovative use of language, for his stretching of the boundaries of poetic form, and for his perceptive readings of their works. With George Oppen and Charles Reznikoff, he became known as an Objectivist, a term he chose to distinguish these poets from Amy Lowell’s Imagists and the French Symbolists. Objectivists were concerned with the precise use of language, honesty and sincerity in their communication with their audience, and the creation of a poem that in itself would be an object, part of the reader’s reality.
Zukofsky’s voice was that of an urban American Jew, tied to the Yiddish tradition of his immigrant parents, yet Americanized into twentieth century New York. He was conscious of living in what he called the “age of gears,” where machines and technology dominated everyday life, and he was sensitive to social problems and movements—socialism, communism, Marxism, the Depression, urban unrest. His epic“A” provides an idiosyncratic autobiography of one poet’s life from 1922 to 1976.
Throughout his life, Zukofsky taught at universities and colleges and, with reluctance, read his poetry in public. He was awarded the Lola Ridge Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America (1949); the Longview Foundation Award (1961); the Union League Civic and Arts Poetry Prize (1964) and the Oscar Blumenthal/Charles Leviton Prize, both from Poetry magazine (1966); the National Endowment for the Arts and American Literary Anthology awards (1967 and 1968); and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1976). He was nominated for a National Book Award in Poetry in 1968.