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.
Daniel A. Siedell is the curator of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
"A fine collection of essays about the poet's work."—Joseph Bottum, The Washington Times
“Daniel A. Seidell’s edition of Weldon Kees and the Arts at Midcentury does the service of placing Kees in the context of his cultural milieu and provides concentrations on various aspects of his diverse métier and his character.”—James Ballowe, North Dakota Quarterly
“Indeed, the whole endeavor to which this book is devoted, of rehabilitating Kee’s cultural position, stands as a timely challenge to critics of the arts in the twenty-first-century: how will we develop our discipline? How will we do justice to our rich cultural heritage and in particular that of the past hundred years? The contribution of Siedell and his colleagues is a promising start.”—Katherine Isobel Baxter, American Studies