Weldon Kees remained in his birthplace, the small town of Beatrice in rural Nebraska, until he attended the University of Nebraska. His childhood and adolescence appear typical of the era and place. By the time Kees graduated from a liberal arts curriculum in 1935, he had made a sufficient impression on Professor L. C. Wimberly to become a regular contributor and reviewer for Prairie Schooner. After serving as an editor for the Federal Writers’ Project in Lincoln, Kees moved to Denver in 1937 to work as a librarian, eventually becoming director of the Bibliographical Center of Research for the Rocky Mountain Region. His first published poem, “Subtitle,” appeared that year in an obscure little magazine called Signatures; from then on, Kees turned increasingly toward poetry for the expression of his artistic vision.
By 1943, Kees had moved to New York, where he worked as a journalist for Time and became involved in documentary filmmaking. That year also saw the publication of his first book of poems, The Last Man, by the Colt Press in San Francisco. Midway through the 1940’s, Kees took up painting, choosing to identify himself with what was to be known as the abstract expressionist movement. He exhibited his work in one-man shows at the Peridot Gallery; at least once, his paintings were shown with those of Hans Hofmann, William de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell—the major artists of the movement....
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