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Kees, Weldon, 1914-1955



Weldon Kees was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, on 24 February 1914 to John and Sarah Kees. After high school he attended Doane College and the University of Missouri - Columbia, though in 1935 he received his degree from the University of Nebraska. For a short period after he graduated from the University, he worked on the Federal Writers Project in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1937 he moved to Denver, Colorado, and worked as a librarian and the Director of the Bibliographic Center. From 1943 until 1949 Kees lived in New York City and in 1950 relocated to San Francisco. Kees is presumed to have died by suicide in the summer of 1955. His car was found abandoned at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, on 18 July 1955.

Kees' creative energy led him in many directions including poetry, artwork, music, playwriting, photography, and filmmaking. Kees' first book of poetry, The Last Man, was published by The Colt Press in 1943. His second collection of poetry The Fall of Magicians was published in 1947 by Reynal and Hitchcock. In New York, Kees' creative energy shifted from poetry to painting. His abstract paintings were shown at two one-man shows at the Peridot Gallery in New York, owned by Lou Pollack. Kees earned money writing reviews for Time magazine, writing scripts for wartime newsreels, and writing art criticism for The Nation.

In 1953, Kees met jazz clarinetist Bob Helm, who played with Turk Murphy's Jazz Band. Kees and Helm collaborated on creating blues, rags, and music in the New Orleans jazz style. During this time Kees also sought creative outlets through a series of productions known as the Poets' Follies. The Follies showcased poets, musicians, and actors and allowed Kees to showcase some of his own talent. The last Poets' Follies took place in 1958 after Kees' death.

Helm was a member of Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band. Helm's early recordings include Bob Helm's Riverside Roustabouts (1954) and San Franciso Style (1956). Many years later, in 1998, he recorded Hotter Than That with the Bob Helm Jazz Band. He worked with Carol Leigh to record Bob Helm and Miss Carol Leigh's Blues and Jazz Review Ma'N Bessie Blues and Jazz Review, Act 1 and Act 2. Helm died 1 September 2002.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Donald Justice, Collection on Weldon Kees

Identifier: MS-0576
Scope and Contents The collection consists of materials by Weldon Kees including typescript and photocopied poems, slides and photographs of artwork, typescript copies of plays and stories, an audio cassette of poems and songs with Bob Helm, and address lists and stamps. There are also some related personal materials such as a photocopy of the will of his mother, Sarah G. Kees, with headstone information, and probate documents of his close friend, Michael Grieg.The collection also consists of...
Dates: 1942-2002

Kees-Helm Sheet Music Collection

Identifier: MS-0300
Scope and Contents The Kees-Helm collection includes original copies of sheet music with lyrics and music written by Kees and music written by Helm. Many of the pieces of sheet music are only partially completed. Along with sheet music the collection includes drafts of lyrics and verses, notecards with lyrics, and index cards with ideas for songs. These materials are typed and handwritten, the majority in Kees' hand. The correspondence includes letters that Kees sent to Helm and other individuals....
Dates: 1949-1958

Marian Weston, Collection on Weldon Kees

 Collection — Box 001: [Barcode: R0241200548]
Identifier: MS-0505
Content Description

The papers consist of articles, newspaper clippings, letters, and various memorabilia about poet Weldon Kees, collected by Marian Weston.

Dates: 1954-2005

Weldon Kees, Papers

Identifier: MS-0559
Scope and Contents The papers consist of typed manuscripts by Weldon Kees. Nearly all the works in Poems 1947-1954 and many of those in Collected Poems are represented by multiple drafts with annotations. There are also some unpublished materials including poems and a short story, as well as tearsheets of published poems. There are over half a dozen typed play manuscripts and about a dozen songs by Kees, several written with Bob Helm. Other...
Dates: 1993-2008

Additional filters:

Poets 3
Poets, American -- Nebraska 3
clippings (information artifacts) 2
letters (correspondence) 2
Artists -- United States 1