Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin (?1913 - March 19, 1995) was an American poet, and an influential member of the Memphis, Tennessee literary community.
Beaudoin is best known for inventing the "eye poem," a poetic form that combined words and pictures. Throughout his career, Beaudoin met and corresponded with a wide range of better-known poets, such as William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Randall Jarrell, and Ezra Pound. Beaudoin also had an important influence as leader of the Memphis literary community, presiding over a literary circle described by Memphis author James Conaway in his memoir Memphis Afternoons.
During the Depression era, Beaudoin lived in New Orleans, and he later ran an art gallery for several years in Greenwich Village, New York.
Beaudoin pioneered the "eye poem" in the 1940s, and one newspaper account of his career states that Beaudoin produced thousands of eye poems over a 10-year period. A folio edition of 6,000 poems was published by Archangel Press in 1947. His work appeared in over 100 publications. Beaudoin also founded the Poetry Society of Tennessee.
Beaudoin served as a kind of father figure to many Memphis writers, and his house on the Mississippi river was the site of his literary salon. Memphis poet and artist Frances Cowden, a member of Beaudoin's circle, later recalled that Inisfree, as he called his home on the river, was a place where local poets would gather to talk about, and read, poetry with Beaudoin: "We would all go down there and read poetry and listen to him talk about poetry. And if you had a big decision you needed to make in your life, you would go and talk to Kenneth about it 1st because he always gave good advice." Beaudoin was named "Poet Laureate of the River" in 1976 at the Mid-South Festival.
Beaudoin was also known for the "gemstone awards" he would give to poets.
Starting in the 1950s, Beaudoin supported himself as chief clerk in criminal intelligence with the Memphis Police Department. Beaudoin considered the job a source of rich insight into human nature. In a 1981 newspaper interview Beaudoin explained, "My police job kept me close to human beings in tense situations.... From a poet's point of view, it was perhaps the most important job I could have had. When you associate with people on a day-to-day basis, there's nothing exciting about it. You don't even remember it. But when people are under pressure, you can talk to them differently and the experience becomes memorable. Where else could you learn as much about people as at a police station?" Beaudoin retired from his police job in 1980, due to blindness.
Beaudoin's papers are housed at the University of Memphis Special Collections Department.
- City Suite, and other poem. Prairie City, IL: Black Faun Press, 1940.
- Incunabula, and other poems. New Orleans, LA: Iconograph Press, 1942.
- 6 Eye Poems. New York: Archangel Press, 1948.
- Two Suites for Manhattan. Raleigh Springs, TN: Attaturk, 1949.
- The First Encrustation. . Raleigh Springs, TN: Attaturk, 1949.
- January Haiku and Eye-poems. [Memphis, TN?]: privately printed, [1950?]
- Strange April. Raleigh Springs, TN: Attaturk, 1950.
- Hot Springs Holiday. St. Louis, MO: Salter House, 1950.
- The Chester Trilogy: Rendered into somewhat more contemporary English. Memphis, TN: privately printed, 1950.
- The Christ Urge. St. Louis, MO: Salter House, 1951.
- Elegy for a Southern Poet, and other poems. Memphis, New Dimension Press, 1951.
- Poems, 1951. Raleigh Springs, TN: Attaturk, 1951.
- This Man. Raleigh Springs, TN: Attaturk, 1951.
- Eagle Creek, and other poems. New Age Publishers, 1952.
- Pavanne for Gorley, Dead. [Memphis, TN?]: privately printed, 1952.
- Bayou Gayoso: A poem. Louisville, KY: Erewhon Press, 1954.
- Eye: Poems. San Francisco: Bern Porter, 1955.
- Poems, 1955. Memphis, TN: privately printed, 1955.
- Six of My Children. Memphis: privately printed, 1957.
- On Hot Summer Afternoons, and other poems. San Diego, CA: Bern Porter, 1958.
- 16 Eye Poems. Memphis, TN: privately printed, 1963.
- A Book of the Hours: Poems, 1965. Memphis, TN: Holograph, 1965.
- The Lyrical Mood ... Landscaapes. Poems. 1968.
- Memphis Tennessee Anthology (illustrated by Geneva Watkins Speck). Ilfracombe, North Devon : A.H. Stockwell, 1953; Homestead, FL: Olivant, 1968.
- The New Look Trio (by Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin, Lura Nowotny, & Sue Abbott Boyd). (2 volumes), Fort Smith, AR: South & West, 1970.
- Selected Poems and Eye-Poems, 1940-1970. Homestead, FL: Olivant Press, 1970.
- The Moon in Jefferson Street. Jackson, TN: Old Hickory Press, 1974.
- River Cycle #4. Jackson, TN: Old Hickory Press, 1975.
- Codex MM: Secrets. Jackson, TN: Old Hickory Press, 1976.
- 'The Pyramid Poems. [New Orleans, LA?]: privately printed, 1980.
- The Papao Genesis, and two other legends of origin. Mexico City & New Orleans, LA: Amerind Press, 1950.
- 4 Sioux Myths and 2 Blackfoot Legends. Mexico City & New Orleans, LA: Amerind Press, 1950.
- The family of Napoleon Beaudoin I of Cadillac, Michigan; with a brief account of the Beaudoin family on the North American Continent since 1667; 282 years of continued residence. Memphis, TN: privately printed, 1949.
- A Preliminary Survey of the Condition, Artifacts, and Findings from the Group of Indian Mounds Located on the Property of Mrs. Cynthia Warren: On the banks of the Little River, between Marked Tree and Lapanto, Arkansas, and referred to hereafter as the Warren Mounds. Mexico City & New Orleans, LA: Amerind Press, 1950.
- The Caddos; A selected reading list calculated to direct the beginning student of the pre-Columbian Indian cultures of North America to the most important mass of research which has accumulated on the Caddo Indians of Northern Louisiana and Southern Arkansas. Jasper, AR: 1951.
- Note on James Franklin Lewis. Hot Springs, AR: privately printed, 1951.
- The Poetry of John Kingston Fineran. Hot Springs, AR: privately printed, 1951.
- Covington, Jimmie (March 26, 1995). "Poet Opened Window to Human Character in Police Job." The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), p. C11.
- Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin at the New York State Literary Tree
- "Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin: Poet Laureate of the river"
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