Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio. He attended Alexander Meiklejohn's Experimental College for one year and then the University of Wisconsin. For much of his life Patchen suffered from a spinal disorder which caused extreme pain.
Patchen espoused anarchism and pacifism, and much of his work opposes war. He was against U.S. involvement in World War II, believing that the high ideals of protecting democracy were betrayed by political machinations and senseless violence.
In the early fifties he pioneered an artform which combined spoken poetry and jazz. Charles Mingus was one of his better-known collaborators. This was alluded to in Mingus' book, "Beneath the Underdog," and the original liner notes from the Columbia LP, "Mingus Ah Um." No known recordings of this particular collaboration are in existence.
Moe Ash of Folkways Records made some recordings of Patchen reading his poetry and excerpts from one of his novels. These recordings were released as "Kenneth Patchen Reads with Jazz in Canada" (1959), "Selected Poems of Kenneth Patchen" (1960), and "Kenneth Patchen Reads His Love Poems" (released 1961). "From Albion Moonlight" was recorded later at Patchen’s home but not released until 1972 by Folkways.
Many of his poems have been set to music by David Bedford. Composer Kyle Gann has set his voice reading a text to music (see below) and violinist Carla Kihlstedt set a text on the "Patchen" track of her solo Tzadik release Two Foot Yard.
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