Guy Davenport : biography
Guy Mattison Davenport (November 23, 1927 – January 4, 2005) was an American writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher.
Guy Davenport was born in Anderson, South Carolina, in the foothills of Appalachia on November 23, 1927. His father was an agent for the Railway Express Agency. Davenport said that he became a reader only at age ten, with a neighbor’s gift of one of the Tarzan series.Davenport, Guy. "On Reading." The Hunter Gracchus. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996. 19–20. At age eleven, he began a neighborhood newspaper, drawing all the illustrations and writing all the stories.Davenport, Guy. A Balance of Quinces. New York: New Directions, 1996. 26. At age thirteen, he "broke [his] right leg (skating) and was laid up for a wearisome while"; it was then that he began "reading with real interest",Quartermain, Peter. "Writing as Assemblage / Guy Davenport" in Disjunctive Poetics (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 167. beginning with a biography of Leonardo.Davenport, Guy. "On Reading." The Hunter Gracchus. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996. 19–20. He left high school early and enrolled at Duke University a few weeks after his seventeenth birthday.Bamberger, W.C. introduction to Guy Davenport and James Laughlin (W.W. Norton, 2007). ix. At Duke, he studied artQuartermain, Peter. "Writing as Assemblage / Guy Davenport" in Disjunctive Poetics (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 167.(with Clare Leighton), graduating with a degree in classics and English literature.
Davenport was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford, from 1948 to 1950. He studied Old English under J. R. R. Tolkien and wrote Oxford’s first thesis on James Joyce. In 1950, upon his return to the United States, Davenport was drafted into the US Army for two years, spending them at Fort Bragg in the 756th Field Artillery, then in the XVIII Airborne Corps. After the army, he taught at Washington University in St. Louis until 1955, when he began earning a PhD at Harvard, studying under Harry Levin and Archibald MacLeish.
Davenport befriended Ezra Pound during the poet’s incarceration in St. Elizabeths Hospital, visiting him annually from 1952 until Pound’s release in 1958, and later at his home in Rapallo, Italy. Davenport described one such visit, in 1963, in the story "Ithaka". Davenport wrote his dissertation on Pound’s poetry, published as Cities on Hills in 1983.
After completing his Ph.D., he taught at Haverford College from 1961 to 1963 but soon took a position at the University of Kentucky, "the remotest offer with the most pay" (as he wrote to Jonathan Williams). Davenport taught at Kentucky until he received a MacArthur Fellowship, which prompted his retirement at the end of 1990.
Davenport was married briefly in the early 1960s.A Garden Carried in a Pocket: Letters 1964–1968, ed. Thomas Meyer (Green Shade, 2004). 41. He dedicated Eclogues, 1981, to "Bonnie Jean" (Cox), his companion from 1965A Garden Carried in a Pocket: Letters 1964–1968, ed. Thomas Meyer (Green Shade, 2004). 52. until his death.Guy Davenport obituary, New York Times. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. January 7, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/07/books/07davenport.html Other Davenport volumes dedicated to Cox include Objects on a Table, 1998, and The Death of Picasso, 2004. Cox became Trustee for the Guy Davenport Estate.Kilmer, Nicholas. "Fragments from a Correspondence / Guy Davenport." Arion. Winter, 2006. 129, footnote 57.
The range of Davenport’s literary and artistic friendships was remarkable. In addition to Pound and Williams, Davenport knew Hugh Kenner, Laurence Scott, Louis Zukofsky, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Middleton, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Buckminster Fuller, Eudora Welty, Samuel R. Delany, Robert Kelly, James Laughlin, Allen Ginsberg, Stan Brakhage, Ronald Johnson, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, his neighbor.