Owen Dodson Biography

Owen Vincent Dodson (November 28, 1914 – June 21, 1983) was an American poet, novelist, and playwright. He was one of the leading African-American poets of his time, associated with the generation of black poets following the Harlem Renaissance.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, USA, Dodson studied at Bates College (B.A. 1936) and at the Yale School of Drama (M.F.A. 1939). He taught at Howard University, where he was chair of the Drama Department, from 1940 to 1970, and briefly at Spelman College and Atlanta University. James V. Hatch has explained that Dodson "is the product of two parallel forces—the Black experience in America with its folk and urban routes, and a classical humanistic education."

Dodson's poetry varied widely and covered a broad range of subjects, styles, and forms. He wrote at times, though rarely, in black dialect, and at others quoted and alluded to classical poetry and drama. He wrote about sexuality—he was gay, though he was briefly engaged to Priscilla Heath, a Bates classmate—and about religion. He was closely associated with poets W. H. Auden and William Stanley Braithwaite, but his influences were difficult to pin down.

In drama, he cited Henrik Ibsen as an influence, though again as an initial relationship later to be reworked and half-forgotten. Dodson's two novels are generally considered to be autobiographical.

Dodson died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 69.

Dodson is one of the subjects of Hilton Als' 1996 book The Women; according to Als, Dodson was his mentor and lover.