Interview with X.J and Dorothy Kennedy
***** Introduction from his website.
X. J. Kennedy was born in Dover, N. J., on August 21, 1929, shortly before the crash of the stock market. Irked by the hardship of having the name of Joseph Kennedy, he stuck the X on and has been stuck with it ever since.
Kennedy grew up in Dover, went to Seton Hall (B.Sc. ’50) and Columbia (M.A., ’51), then spent four years in the Navy as an enlisted journalist, serving aboard destroyers. He studied at the Sorbonne in 1955-56, then devoted the next six years to failing to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. But he did meet Dorothy, his wife, and a noted children's literature author there.
He has taught English at Michigan, at the Woman’s College of the U. of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro), and from 1963 through 1978 at Tufts, with visiting sojourns at Wellesley, U. of California Irvine, and the U. of Leeds. In 1978, he became a free-lance writer.
Recognitions include the Lamont Award of the Academy of American Poets (for his first book, Nude Descending a Staircase in 1961), the Los Angeles Book Award for poetry (for Cross Ties: Selected Poems, 1985), the Aiken-Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry (given by the University of the South and The Sewanee Review), Guggenheim and National Arts Council fellowships. In spring 2009 the Poetry Society of America gave him the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime service to poetry.
I had the pleasure to speak to X.J. and Dorothy Kennedy on my Somerville Community Access TV show Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.
Impassive, to a tuba chord,
Faces like blurry Photostats,
Enter the class of ’34
In wheelchairs, coned with paper hats.
Discreet, between the first Scotch punch
And the last tot of buttered rum,
President Till works over each,
Fomenting his new stadium.
Fire in his eyes, the class tycoon,
Four hog-hairs bristling from his chin,
Into his neighbor’s Sonotone
Confides his plan to corner tin.
His waitress with a piercing squeal
Wrestles a buttock from his grip.
Dropping the napkins a good deal,
She titters, puddling ox-tail soup.
Now all, cranked high, shrill voices raise
To quaver strains of purple hills
In Alma Mater’s book of days.
Some dim sub-dean picks up the bills,
One last car door slam breaks a whine
Solicitous of someone’s health,
And softly through the mezzanine
The night revives with punctual stealth.