Kenneth O. Hanson, 1922–2003
Kenneth O. Hanson, Kenan Professor of English and Humanities, emeritus, died on November 28 in Athens, Greece. Hanson was a teacher, translator, and poet; he was known as a seminal American poet. He was called “a wry observer missing nothing that is splendid or absurd” by the New York Times in 1974, in a review of his book The Uncorrected World. Hanson received the Theodore Roethke Award in 1964 for best poems by a Northwest poet.
Hanson, a native of Idaho, received his B.A. from the University of Idaho in 1942. He then pursued graduate study in comparative literature and the Chinese language at the University of Washington, where he was an instructor. Hanson came to Reed College in 1954 and remained on the faculty until 1986; he was a major contributor to the development of the college’s humanities courses. He retired to permanently live in Greece, the country that he discovered in 1963 and where he had been living intermittently.
Hanson wrote numerous volumes of his poetry and published translated poems from both French and Chinese. His first book, The Distance Anywhere, won the Lamont Award of the Academy of American Poets in 1966 “for the discovery and encouragement of a new poetic genius.” Hanson’s other books include Saronikos and Other Poems (1970) and Lighting the Night Sky (1983), and his work was published in the Norton Anthology of Poets in 1979 as well as many other anthologies. His poetry was published in numerous magazines and journals that include the New Yorker, the Nation, Botthege Oscure, and Poetry Northwest.
Hanson’s honors included a Fulbright Grant to attend the first Institute in Chinese Civilization in Formosa, an Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant in humanities, a Bollingen Foundation grant to translate works by the Sung Dynasty poet Han Yü (resulting in the 1978 volume Growing Old Alive), and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.