Lindsay, Vachel

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Lindsay, Vachel

Lindsay, Vachel (Nicholas Vachel Lindsay) (vāˈchəl) (lĭnˈzē), 1879–1931, American poet, b. Springfield, Ill., studied at Hiram College, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the New York School of Art. Lindsay made tours selling his poems and drawings, living as a modern-day troubadour. He was particularly effective when reading his own poems. His poetry at its best is virile and strong. It has a fine spoken music, often enhanced by jazz rhythms. Volumes of his poetry include General William Booth Enters into Heaven (1913), The Congo (1914), The Chinese Nightingale (1917), and Collected Poems (1938). Lindsay was plagued by poverty and illness in his later years, and the quality of his poetry declined.


See his autobiographical Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty (1914) and A Handy Guide for Beggars (1916); his letters (ed. by A. J. Armstrong, 1940); biographies by E. L. Masters (1935, repr. 1969) and M. Harris (1975); studies by J. T. Flanagan, comp. (1970) and A. Massa (1970).

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Lindsay, (Nicholas) Vachel

(1879–1931) poet, writer; born in Springfield, Ill. He studied at Hiram College, Ohio (1897–1900), prepared for the ministry, then studied art in Chicago (1901) and New York (1905). He traveled throughout the U.S.A. reciting his poetry to earn a living (1906–12); after the publication of his first major poem, "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven" (1913), he became an extremely popular lecturer and recitalist (1913–31). In works such as "The Congo" (1914), he employed rhythmic effects to capture the spirit of places and people that ordinary Americans could relate to. Despite his success he became severely depressed. He returned to Springfield and committed suicide.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.