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X. J. Kennedy


X. J. Kennedy (born 21 August 1929, Dover, New Jersey) is a poet, translator, anthologist, editor, and bestselling writer of children's literature as well as student textbooks on English literature and poetry. He was born "Joseph Charles Kennedy" — known to friends as Joe — but not wishing to share a name with Joseph P. Kennedy added an "X" to his first name.

Kennedy attended Seton Hall (BSc, 1950) and Columbia University (MA, 1951). After serving for four years as an enlisted journalist with the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, he studied at the Sorbonne from 1955 to 56, and spent the next six years pursuing a graduate degree in English at the University of Michigan but did not complete his Ph.D. He met his future wife Dorothy Mintzlaff while there; she received her Master's degree in English from the University of Michigan in 1956 and completed coursework there toward her doctorate.


Kennedy taught English at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Tufts University (1963–78), with visiting professorships at Wellesley, UC-Irvine, and Leeds. He became a freelance writer in 1978. In the early 1970s he and his wife sasha co-edited the influential journal, Counter/Measures, a precursor in the New Formalist movement to The Reaper and The Formalist. He served as poetry editor of The Paris Review, and his poetry has been published in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Hudson Review.


Kennedy is most recognized for his light verse, and was the first recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Michael Braude Award for Light Verse. His first book, Nude Descending a Staircase, won the 1961 Lamont Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets, and his dozens of books have won numerous awards and honors, including Guggenheim and National Arts Council fellowships, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine, and a Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry (in 1985 for Cross Ties: Selected Poems), the 1969/70 Shelley Memorial Award, the Golden Rose of the New England Poetry Club, honorary degrees from Lawrence and Adelphi Universities and Westfield State College. Kennedy received the National Council of Teachers of English Year 2000 Award for Excellence in Children's Poetry. He received the 2004 Poets' Prize for his most recent work, The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992&n space;2002.

Kennedy is also widely known for his "Brats" series of dark children's poetry books, his translation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, and Tygers of Wrath, an anthology of angry verse. With his wife Dorothy M. Kennedy and scholar Jane E. Aaron, he is the editor of The Bedford Reader, a collegiate literature textbook also popular for teaching to the AP English Language and Composition test. Kennedy and his wife Dorothy, who have five children and six grandchildren, live in Lexington, Massachusetts.