Born in 1914 in Beatrice, Nebraska, and presumed dead in 1955 (when he apparently leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge), Weldon Kees has become one of the better-known “unknown” American poets of the twentieth century, his fiction and poetry largely kept alive by other poets. But Kees was also that rare artist who excelled in many genres and media: a skillful painter, filmmaker, jazz musician, and composer. He was a gifted critic as well, and his criticism bears the marks of his own deep and broad engagement with the arts.
Weldon Kees and the Arts at Midcentury is the first book to reflect the full range and reach of Kees’s artistic activities. Bringing together writers from various disciplines—art historians, poets, literary critics, curators, and cultural scholars, including Dore Ashton, James Reidel, Dana Gioia, and Stephen C. Foster—this volume offers a wide variety of perspectives through which to evaluate the meaning and significance of Kees’s achievement. Although the essays themselves partake of the diversity of Kees’s impact on the culture, all agree on one fundamental point: any history of postwar American culture that neglects Kees’s multifaceted contribution is ultimately incomplete.