Madeline Gleason

From Academic Kids

Madeline Gleason (1909-1973) was a United States poet and dramatist who was partly responsible for bringing about the San Francisco Renaissance.


Early Life and Work

Gleason was born in Fargo, North Dakota and was the only child of Catholic parents. She attended the Catholic parish school, where she was viewed as something of a problem child. She and a cousin toured the Midwest, singing and tap-dancing in vaudeville shows.

When her mother died, she and her father moved to Portland, Oregon, where she started to work in a bookstore and write poetry which she circulated in manuscript form. She published a series of articles on poetry and poets in a local newspaper.

San Francisco

In 1934, Gleason moved to San Francisco, California to work on a history of California for the WPA Writer's Project. Two years later, a sequence of her poems was published in Poetry. For a number of years, she worked with the composer John Edmunds, translating songs by Schumann, Schubert and J. S. Bach. The pair also organised song festivals.

Her first book, Poems, was published in 1944. By this time she had moved to Phoenix, Arizona because of the war, but she soon returned to San Francisco and took up a job with a brokerage firm.

San Francisco Renaissance

In April 1947, Gleason organised the First Festival of Modern Poetry at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery, Gough Street. Over the space of two evenings, twelve poets, including Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer to an audience of young poets and poetry lovers. This was the beginning of the movement that was to eventually achieve public notice through the famous reading in the Six Gallery in San Francisco in October 1955.

Later Life and Works

Gleason's second book, The Metaphysical Needle appeared in 1949 but her third, Concerto for Bell and Telephone, was not published until 1966. Although she had continued with writing and involvement in the San Francisco artistic scene, as well as writing a number of plays, Gleason had, to some extent, become a victim of the Renaissance's success. The Beat poets she had helped promote had become so successful that it was hard for less high-profile poets to find publishers.

However, she continued to give readings and taught creative writing classes, both at San Francisco State University and in her home. In 1973, her Selected Poems was published, followed in 1975 by Here Comes Everybody: New and Selected Poems. Gleason continued writing right up to her death. Her Collect Poems was published in 1999.



  • Wagstaff, Christopher (ed). Madeline Gleason: Collected Poems 19191979 (has a very useful historical introduction)



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