Brooks Haxton can attribute at least some of his love of language and his ear for its rhythms to his lineage: his mother was novelist Josephine Haxton, who published her fiction under the pen name Ellen Douglas, and his father was composer and writer Kenneth Haxton. The youngest of their three sons, Brooks is one of the most acclaimed American poets at work today. He has published eight collections of poetry, four translations, and Fading Hearts on the River (2014), about his son’s experiences as a professional poker player.
Haxton was born on 1 December 1950 in Greenville, Mississippi. He began writing poetry during junior high school, when the town was in the midst of school integration, and he and his friends became interested in the protest songs of Bob Dylan. He received a bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin’s Beloit College in 1972 and a master’s degree in creative writing from Syracuse University nine years later.
Haxton’s first published volume, The Lay of Eleanor and Irene (1985), is a narrative poem set in New York City that, like many of Haxton’s other works, focuses on human relationships and specific moments of everyday life. His poetry often touches on his childhood and adolescence while moving easily between the worlds of personal memory and world history, often blurring the line. Haxton’s translations include ancient Greek poems, Victor Hugo, Heraclitus, and German Jewish poet Else Lasker-Schüler.
Organizations that have honored Haxton include the Academy of American Poets, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Hanes Award for Poetry. He teaches poetry and world literature at Syracuse University.
- Dorothy Abbott, ed., Mississippi Writers; Reflections on Childhood and Youth, vol. 3, Poetry (1988)
- David Kirby, New York Times Book Review (30 May 2014)
- Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty Directory website, asfaculty.syr.edu/pages/eng/haxton-brooks.html