The hyena with polished face and bow tie,
In the office of a billion dollar
Corporation devoted to service…
-from “Thou Shalt Not Kill”
Born: December 22, 1905, South Bend, Indiana
Died: June 6, 1982, Montecito, California
Of all the beats, Rexroth was one of the most political–a leftist who helped organize maritime unions in the 1920s. He also objected to World War II. It was poet William Everson who termed Kenneth: “Rexroth: Shaker and Maker.” His poetry reflects his stances on capitalism, and caught the eye of other beats such as Ginsberg and Snyder. His poem “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” a few lines of which are extracted above, was a tribute to Dylan Thomas. Besides politics, Rexroth was also into Asian literature and philosophy, which came through in his poetry.
Kenneth Rexroth was known as Reinhold Cacoethes in Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.