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Sunday Diversion: The Deaths of Minor American Poets

Jeff O'Neal

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Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

My favorite poetry anthology is The Oxford Book of American Poetry. It has a diverse and representative selection of poets that includes familiar names and fresh voices. The poetry itself is of course the star of the show, but an added pleasure are the snappy, succinct biographies for each poet. And, boy, can American poets find ways to off themselves.

Below are the deaths and names of 10 minor American poets, pulled from the bios in The Oxford Book. Your task…..match them up. As always, answers will come on Tuesday.

Good luck!




A. Hit by a dune buggy.

B. Heart attack in friend’s swimming pool.

C. Hit by car while walking to hospital to receive treatment for injuries suffered during a suicide

D. Psoriosis (Last words: “My vocabulary did this to me.”)

E. Drank whiskey poisoned by bartender

F. Disappeared.

G. Died in a snowstorm while walking home from a tavern.

H. Jumped off the Washington Avenue Bridge between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I. Walked off with rifle. Never seen again.

J. Tuberculosis of the brain lining



1. Theodore Roethke

2. Robert Johnson

3. Philip Freneau

4. Weldon Kees

5. Randall Jarrell

6. Adelaide Crapsey

7. Lew Welch

8. Frank O’Hara

9. Jack Spicer

10. John Berryman