Miriam on Kenneth Patchen

"Since an early childhood private activity, drawing and creating his own 'comic' strips .... did not interfere with his being most active in athletic and collegiate affairs; football, track, debating team, class president, et al, in his school and college.

After leaving Alexander Meiklejohn's Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin, his rambles through the country during the depression included most of the classic jobs and situations of such a life with one notable difference: everywhere, he left behind him sheafs of manuscript: forgotten, overlooked, lost - but he was always creating.

After a violent attack of back disability in 1937, he found himself forced back to his world of visual-structured creatures. The first application of them came with the limited edition of The Dark Kingdom. After that as Patchen continued working the, for him, inevitable need to expand the written word brought about first the "understanding", then the "engagement" then, finally, the marriage of words and drawings. The "Painted Books" are the door, as it were, to the "Picture-Poems".

When a spinal fusion in 1956 gave the first relief he had had from pain for 19 years, he started back into the outside world. In 1959, a "surgical mishap" destroyed his freedom; replaced in even more violent and vicious form his life of pain confined totally to bed. Faced with the death of a book he had planned for years - The Human Winter, the wonderful happenstance of being made the recipient of some hundreds-of-years-old handmade papers started him back to painting. Physically torturous for him since he can not sit, lie on his back, or move more than slightly without incurring monstrous pain, painting little works on paper gives him air from the cramped bedroom, everything else, including the page, closes in.

Despite saying that he is not a "Painter" because he has not devoted his time and efforts to the problems of paintings, Patchen has been acclaimed by many leading artists and galleries as a powerful force in the art world. Everywhere his influence is to be see."

Excerpt from Kenneth Patchen: Painter of Poems. Exhibit Catalog, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1969