The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden
Robert Hayden was winner of the Grand Prize for Poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts, and 1975 Fellow of the Academy of American Poets. He served two terms as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and, until his death in 1980, professor of English at the University of Michigan and poetry editor for the Bahá'í magazine World Order.
Robert Hayden refused to be labelled as either a 'black' or a 'Bahá'í' poet. Yet no modern poet has written so well from both these perspectives - as a Black American in a violent society, and as a Bahá'í in, he firmly believed, a period of crucial transition for mankind.
Black America and the Bahá'í community in the United States would have claimed him for their own. But he would neither allow his work to be politicized nor would he make his poems impassioned protestations of Faith. Nevertheless, in the last fifteen years of his life, he was recognized as a major contemporary poet, and received numerous marks of public esteem.
In this book John Hatcher examines the various dimensions of Hayden's poetry, and especially the link between the poet and his Faith, which has remained largely unexplored and imperfectly understood. The author writes from his own perspective as Robert Hayden's friend and fellow Bahá'í, as a poet and teacher himself and a serious student of Hayden's poetry, and in uncovering its Bahá'í frame of reference he gives us Hayden the religious poet - not a rhetorical 'official' poet, but a true poetic voice whose faith is present, at a profound level, in all his work.
John Hatcher received BA and MA degrees in English literature from Vanderbilt University and in 1968 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of South Florida.