"Forever" Robert Hayden
by Jan Schlain
"Robert Hayden," Fran Wright announced jubilantly, bending down to clear grass cuttings off a grave marker at Fairview Cemetery. "Success!"
"Robert Hayden 1913-1980 / Poet," the marker read. "This man, superb in love and logic."
"I used to live on Pontiac Trail right near the cemetery thirty-five years ago, when my son was small," Wright said. What brought her back was a postage stamp: Hayden is one of ten twentieth-century poets featured in a new issue of "Forever" stamps. She noted that in the 1920s, Robert Frost lived on Pontiac Trail when he was poet-in-residence at the U-M. The house he lived in was later moved to Greenfield Village, and "the house built in its place was [art dean Jean Paul] Slusser's house, where W.H. Auden lived for a time."
Frost and Auden, Wright noted, lived in Ann Arbor only briefly. Hayden, on the other hand, won two Hopwood Awards as a student, "worked here as a grad student with W.H. Auden, lived on Gardner Ave. in Burns Park, and was the first African American chosen as Poet Laureate of the United States (although it had a different title then)," she had emailed earlier. He taught, wrote, published, died, and was buried here.
The stamp issue also honors another poet with local ties, Josef Brodsky. But in Wright's view, "Brodsky is not from Ann Arbor. He left the Soviet Union, and he was here for a year or two before he settled in New England. Robert Hayden is from Detroit ... he's a lot more from Ann Arbor."
[Originally published in June, 2012.]