Laura Reichenthal Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Laura Riding was born Laura Reichenthal. Her father, Nathan, a Polish Jew, was largely a self-educated man who had emigrated in 1884 when he was fifteen years old. He was a founding member of the American Socialist Party, and he hoped Laura was destined for a political career. She was the daughter of his second wife, Sadie Edersheim, a German immigrant. Laura attended the Girls’ High School, Brooklyn, but at fifteen years old she rebelled against her father’s wishes and announced her vocation to be poetry. Symbolically, she dropped her family name, calling herself thenceforth Laura Riding. She always revered her father for his goodness, but she saw poetry as a better way than politics to influence society.{$S[A]Reichenthal, Laura;Riding, Laura}{$S[A]Jackson, Laura Riding;Riding, Laura}{$S[A]Vara, Madeleine;Riding, Laura}{$S[A]Rich, Barbara;Riding, Laura}

From 1918 to 1921 she attended Cornell University, but she did not graduate. Instead, in 1920 she married a professor, Louis Gottschalk, and began her career as a poet. Some of her poems to be published appeared in Fugitive, the poetry magazine edited at Vanderbilt University by John Crowe Ransom. It was the main vehicle of the group of southern poets that included Allen Tate. Riding saw herself as an honorary member of the Fugitive group, and they provided her first appreciative audience, giving her an award for her poem “The Quids.”

This poem also caught the eye of an English poet, Robert Graves, and he included a comparison of her with Gertrude Stein in his 1925 essay “Contemporary Techniques of Poetry.” He and his wife Nancy invited Riding, then living in Greenwich Village, to England. In the aftermath of her divorce, this plan suited her exactly; she also desired to find a more discerning audience. Her arrival in January, 1926, marked the beginning of a turbulent but strong and fruitful liaison between the two poets.

They worked together on A Survey of Modernist Poetry, considered by many to be a model of lucidity, with Riding contributing the material on American poetry. In the same year they started A Pamphlet Against...

(The entire section is 880 words.)


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Laura Riding was born Laura Reichenthal, of Jewish parentage in Brooklyn, New York, where she attended Brooklyn Girls High School. Her father, Nathaniel S. Reichenthal, was politically active, but she renounced his political ambitions for her, declaring she would devote her life to poetry. She also changed her name to Riding.

From 1918 to 1921, Riding attended Cornell University, where she met Louis Gottschalk, a young history graduate student. They married in 1920, but Riding never finished her degree because Gottschalk was offered a teaching position at Urbana, Illinois, and then at Louisville, Kentucky. By this time, Riding’s poems had begun appearing in Fugitive, a poetry magazine edited by John Crowe Ransom. She became the first woman poet to join his group of southern poets. Her growing independence caused a rift with Gottschalk, and the couple divorced in 1925.

The British poet Robert Graves then invited Riding to visit London, where she lived with Graves and his wife in an increasingly strained ménage à trois. Riding’s suicide attempt in 1929, brought on by a relationship with an Irish poet, led to Graves and Riding leaving the country and moving to Mallorca, Spain. They had already set up a company, the Seizin Press, to publish their own and others’ modernist poetry. Leading critics of the day, including Empson and T. S. Eliot, had begun to take note of their critical works on modernism.

The coming of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 forced Graves and Riding to return to England. In 1939, Riding gave up writing poetry. At the outbreak of World War II, she decided to return to the United States, where she was invited by Jackson, a literary critic working for Time magazine, to come and live with his family in Pennsylvania. Riding’s arrival disrupted the family; after Jackson’s divorce, he and Riding married in 1941. They planned to work on a systematic philosophical work to be entitled Dictionary of Exact Meaning, but the work lagged as the couple moved to Florida. Eventually, they went into fruit packing.

After Schuyler’s death in 1968, Riding returned to the project, eventually receiving fellowships to help her, but she failed to publish anything before she died in 1991. However, the theoretical work done by Riding, alone and with Schuyler, was published posthumously as Rational Meaning and as The Failure of Poetry, the Promise of Language, through the work of editors William Harmon and John Nolan, respectively.