Although known as one of the most eloquent poets of the contemporary urban experience, most notably for his evocations of Manhattan street life, Alfred De Witt Corn III grew up in rural Georgia. He was born August 14, 1943, in Bainbridge, near the Florida border. Before Corn was four, his father was drafted into the U.S. Army and subsequently stationed in the Philippines, and his mother died from blood poisoning from a burst appendix. Corn and his two older sisters were raised by friends and then relatives until his father’s discharge in 1946. The family moved to Valdosta, where Corn distinguished himself in school. A devout Methodist intent on pursuing the ministry, Corn began writing poems and stories while still in high school. He accepted a scholarship to study French at Atlanta’s Emory University, graduating in 1965 with highest honors. During a junior year semester abroad, Corn met and would later (1967) marry Ann Jones, despite his growing certainty of his own homosexuality (they would divorce amicably in 1971). He pursued his postgraduate study of French literature and language at Columbia University, in part because he yearned to experience New York, so central to the poetic sensibilities of two poets he greatly admired, Walt Whitman and Hart Crane.
In 1967, Corn accepted a Fulbright Scholarship and traveled for a year in France. He completed his master’s degree in 1970 and, after working briefly as a freelance writer and editor, began what...
(The entire section is 437 words.)