Etheridge Knight (April 19, 1931 – March 10, 1991) was a poet.
Etheridge Knight began writing poetry while an inmate at the Indiana State Prison and published his first collection, Poems from Prison in 1968. "His work was hailed by black writers and critics as another excellent example of the powerful truth of blackness in art," writes Shirley Lumpkin in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. "His work became important in Afro-American poetry and poetics and in the strain of Anglo-American poetry descended from Walt Whitman."
Knight has attained recognition as a major poet, earning both Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations for Belly Song and Other Poems.
Knight was born on 19 April 1931 in Corinth, Mississippi; he was one of seven children. After having dropped out of school in the eighth grade, he joined the army in 1947, saw active duty in Korea, where he suffered a shrapnel wound, and was discharged in 1957. Throughout this time he developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol that caused him to turn to crime to support his habit. While wandering around the United States after his discharge, Knight was arrested for robbery in 1960 and served his sentence in the Indiana State Prison, where by chance Gwendolyn Brooks visited him and encouraged his writing.
In 1991 he died of lung cancer. He was 57 years old.
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