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Sat, 12.14.1929

Raymond R. Patterson, Poet from Harlem

Raymond Patterson

On this date in 1929, Raymond R. Patterson was born. He was a Black poet, writer, and professor.

Born in Harlem, he was a graduate of the New York City Public School System.  Patterson received his BA in Political Science from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he was class poet, and won the Boretone Mountain Poetry Award for best poem written by an undergraduate. He received his MA in English from NYU.

He served in the United States Army, 1951–53 and married Boydie Alice Cooke in 1957.  He also taught at Benedict College.  A prolific poet whose work was widely anthologized, Patterson was author of "26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and Other Poems" published in 1969, and "Elemental Blues," published in 1983.

He also wrote two opera librettos and an unpublished book-length poem on the life of Phillis Wheatley. Patterson read his works widely, from local venues to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and at the 60th Birthday Celebration of Chinua Achebe at the University of Nigeria.  He collaborated with his wife in the creation of Black Poets Reading, a non-profit speakers' bureau; he represented the U.Ss at the Struga Festival in Macedonia. He was an Umbra Poet who served on the executive boards of the Poetry Society of America, the PEN American Center, and the Walt Whitman Birthplace.

Patterson was also a well-known figure on the Long Island poetry landscape, a dignified voice for poetry who served for many years as a mentor to many individual writers regionally. His poetry also appeared in publications like Transatlantic Review, Ohio Review and Beloit Poetry Journal, as well as in many anthologies including "The Poetry of the Negro," "New Black Voices," "The Norton Introduction to Literature," and "The Best American Poetry of 1996."

Patterson joined the New York City College faculty in 1968 and was founder of its Langston Hughes Festival, which he directed from 1973 to 1993. Patterson was on the board of the Walt Whitman Birthplace for many years. Ray Patterson died on April 5, 2001, at the age of 71. He is survived by a daughter, Ama Patterson, a sister, Carol Patterson Lewis of Plainfield, N.J., and two grandchildren.

The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture: An Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
ISBN 0-02-864984-2

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