Modernist poet and dance critic Edwin Denby was born in 1903 in Tientsin, China, the son of an American diplomat. He grew up there, in Vienna, and in Detroit. Denby was educated at Harvard University and the Hellerau-Laxenburg School in Austria, where he earned a degree in gymnastics. In Manhattan, he became friends with members of the New York School, including Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, and John Ashbery.
Though many of his poems are sonnets, his improvisational attention to urban movement plays against the form’s constraint. His poetry has been collected in the volumes In Public, In Private (1948), Snoring in New York (1974), The Complete Poems (1986), and Dance Writings and Poetry (1998). His reviews and essays on ballet appeared in Modern Music, the New York Herald Tribune, Ballet, and Dance Magazine, and he wrote two critical books on the art: Looking at the Dance (1949) and Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets (1965).
Denby’s honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship. He died in 1983.