It’s the birthday of Jersey poet poet X. J. Kennedy, born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey in 1929.
He grew up in a working-class Irish-American family. His father, a timekeeper at the local boiler factory, recited poems to his son. Kennedy went to college, where he started reading and writing poetry, then served in the Navy for four years. He said, “I enlisted in the Navy to avoid serving in the infantry. I’d also been reading Moby Dick, and I had a rather glamorous view of the seas.”
Kennedy attended Seton Hall University (BSc, 1950) and Columbia University (MA, 1951).
Kennedy’s first book of poetry was called Nude Descending a Staircase: Poems/Songs/a Ballad (1961). It was written for adults, but there were two poems in it that he intended for children.
He went on to publish many books of children’s poems, including Ghastlies, Goops, and Pinchushions (1989), and City Kids: Street and Skyscraper Rhymes (2010).
Kennedy has also written poetry textbooks and volumes of poetry for adults, including Dark Horses (1992) and The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2002 (2002).