Ron Padgett was born in 1942 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he attended
public schools. His father was primarily a bootlegger who also traded
cars, his mother primarily a housewife who also helped with the bootlegging.
Around the age of 13, young Ron began scribbling his thoughts and
poems in spiral notebooks. This practice followed hard on the heels
of his having read, for the first time, "serious" literature.
school Ron discovered contemporary literature and started a little
magazine called The White Dove Review, along with his friends
Dick Gallup and Joe Brainard. In its five issues (1958-1960) the magazine
published Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, LeRoi Jones,
Ted Berrigan, and others.
Padgett moved to New York to attend Columbia College, where, over
the course of four years in the pursuit of English and Comparative
Literature, he was fortunate to study under teachers such as Kenneth
Koch, F. W. Dupee, Andrew Chiappe, and Lionel Trilling. After his
junior year, Padgett married Patricia Mitchell, whom he had known
in Tulsa and who had also immigrated to New York. Other Tulsa émigrés
during this period included Brainard, Gallup, and Berrigan.
his college years, Ron published his work in a number of "underground"
literary magazines and gave readings of his poetry in New York City.
Padgett was able to spend a year in Paris on a Fulbright, studying
and translating 20th-century French literature. The following year,
Ron and Pat's son Wayne was born. The three set up house in a bohemian
apartment in New York in what is now called The East Village, where
the parents have lived ever since.
in the mid-1960s the Padgetts visited Kenward Elmslie and Joe Brainard
at the former's house in northern Vermont each summer for fifteen
years. Then they constructed their own abode nearby.
late 1960s a spate of Padgett's books appeared: Bean Spasms,
in collaboration with Berrigan and Brainard, from Kulchur; a translation
of Apollinaire's Poet Assassinated, illustrated by Jim Dine,
from Holt, Rinehart & Winston; and Great Balls of Fire,
poems, also from Holt.
of 1969 Kenneth Koch talked Ron into teaching poetry writing to children,
which he did for the next nine years. Padgett also served as Director
of the St. Mark's Poetry Project 1978-1980. Then he took the position
of Publications Director at Teachers & Writers Collaborative,
the nonprofit organization that specializes in teaching imaginative
writing to children. There he edited and wrote books on that subject
for 20 years.
the decades he has done a fair amount of traveling in Western and
Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, China, and North America.
more complete listing of Padgett's writings, please see the Résumé.