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Biography of James Oppenheim

American Poet (1882—1932)

Photo of James Oppenheim

Born at St. Paul, MN, May 24, 1882, but a resident of New York City, where he has spent most of his life. He was educated at Columbia University and first entered sociological work, becoming assistant head worker at the Hudson Guild Settlement, 1901-03. Married Lucy Seckel, of New York, June, 1905. Was teacher and acting superintendent of the Hebrew Technical School for Girls, New York, 1905-07, when he left to engage entirely in literary work. Mr. Oppenheim is a well-known short-story writer and novelist as well as poet, but we will confine ourselves to listing his work in poetry, which has in itself been voluminous. Since his first collection, "Monday Morning and Other Poems", 1909, his work has been written chiefly in free verse, or in "polyphonic poetry", to use his own term, usually in sweeping rhythms more akin to those of Whitman than to the later free-verse writers. In spirit, too, he has the Whitman mood, or rather, he is absorbed by the same great social and democratic aspects of life. Few poets see life so broadly as Mr. Oppenheim or look as deeply below its surface; his work, however, is beset technically by the danger that attends a poet who works in a semi-prose medium, and the art is not always commensurate with the thought. Mr. Oppenheim's other volumes of verse are: "Pioneers", a poetic play, 1910; "Songs for the New Age", 1914; "War and Laughter", 1916; "The Book of Self", 1917; "The Solitary", 1919.

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