Walter Lowenfels

Walter Lowenfels

American poet and essayist
Date of Birth: 10.05.1897
Country: USA

Biography of Walter Lowenfels

Walter Lowenfels was an American poet and journalist who remained faithful to the ideals of the "Red Decade" throughout his life. He was born into a merchant family and initially pursued a career in business before turning to poetry. In 1926, he moved to Paris, where he lived for about 10 years and associated with expatriate writers such as Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Henry Miller. During this time, he published his debut collection of poems, "Epistles and Episodes" (1926) and "USA with Music" (1929), which showcased his avant-garde style influenced by young poets like Pierre Reverdy and the Surrealists.

In the early 1930s, while still in Paris, Lowenfels became involved with leftist movements. Upon returning to the United States in 1935, he began studying Marxism and sought new poetic themes and forms. This shift in focus is evident in his collection of poems, "Steel" (1937), which was dedicated to striking steelworkers in Pittsburgh and those who fought against fascism in Spain.

In 1939, Lowenfels became the editor of the newspaper "Daily Worker" in Pennsylvania to better understand the lives of the working class. He held this position for 16 years and aimed to avoid overtly biased reporting, instead seeking to portray the human side of class struggle. In 1954, he was arrested, along with several leaders of the Communist Party of the United States, on charges of advocating for the violent overthrow of the government. However, these charges were later deemed absurd by the court.

While in prison, Lowenfels wrote "Sonnets of Love and Liberty" (1955), which exuded life-affirming motifs, and "The Prisoners" (1955), a collection of poems dedicated to his fellow inmates and his wife, Lillian. This collection was warmly received by Louis Aragon. Lowenfels also published autobiographical essays, including "To An Imaginary Daughter" (1964) and "The Poetry of My Politics" (1968), reflecting on his time as a newspaper editor and his political beliefs.

In the mid-1950s, Lowenfels experienced a poetic rebirth after a long hiatus. His subsequent collections, such as "American Voices" (1959), "Some Deaths" (1964), and "Thou Shalt Not Overkill" (1969), showcased a diverse range of forms and content. Lowenfels wrote philosophical and meditative poems, as well as politically charged ones, utilizing classical meters, free verse, and even rhythmic prose. He carried on the tradition of Walt Whitman in contemporary American poetry, infusing Whitman's planetary vision with historical context. For Lowenfels, the cosmic expanses were not merely poetic fantasies but tangible realities that humankind could conquer, with the ultimate goal of achieving communism and human brotherhood.

One of Lowenfels' profound themes was his fight against nuclear destruction and his advocacy for peace. This theme animated his collection "Thou Shalt Not Overkill" and his illustrated "Song of Peace," created in collaboration with Anton Refregier. As an internationalist artist, Lowenfels translated the works of poets such as Paul Éluard, Gabriela Mistral, Bohuslav Reynek, and Vítězslav Nezval. He also edited the anthology "Where is Vietnam?" (1967), which gathered anti-war works from nearly 90 American poets. Lowenfels served as a collector and editor of progressive forces in American poetry, compiling anthologies such as "Poets of Today" (1964), "The Writing on the Wall" (1967), and "Time of Revolution" (1969).