As the child of a father who worked for the State Department he lived in many places. He worked on the Sugarland Ranch in Florida, and attended Ruskin Academy in Cuba, and particularly enjoyed his time in Alabama where he took care of various farm animals and began his life long love of cats. One school year he spent on his grandfather’s farm in Minnesota where initially he was only allowed to practice his trombone in the barn where he milked the cows until they discovered he was very proficient and was then allowed to play in church.
After a year studying music at Augustana College in Illinois, he was accepted in the Navy Music School in Washington, D.C. and became a Navy Band member, touring around Florida. At this time he also obtained a pilot’s license, studying with an RAF pilot who always took a Chihuahua in his pocket on the test flights. In 1948 he was transferred to Guam with the Navy Band where he unfortunately contracted polio.
After recovering from his illness, he attended George Washington University where he became interested in translating Chinese poetry, wrote to Ezra Pound, and began visiting him at St. Elizabeth’s on a regular basis. Pound encouraged his work during these weekly visits and arranged the publication of his first translation, a poem by Li Po. At this time he was also studying Greek, Italian, French and Provencal poetry. In 1953 he married Ellen Hendry (whom he had met at George Washington) in the Washington National Cathedral, and two years later published his translations of Mencius in Melbourne. In 1956 his play, Through a Needle’s Eye, was performed and reviewed by Dudley Fitts at Oberlin College, and La Martinelli, a book of photographs of paintings with an introduction by Ezra Pound, was published in Milan.
Following his graduation from George Washington in 1956, he continued his study of poetics with Pound in Italy, returning to the University of Wisconsin so that he could complete a Masters degree, concentrating on Greek, Latin, Provencal, and Beowulf. In 1964 he published Mang Tzu, an experimental translation from the Chinese of Mencius, in Florence and in 1975 the Ohio University Press published Equinox, a translation of T’ang Chinese poets. Three additional books of translations of the Chinese poet Lu Yu followed. In 1988 and the next few years the first three parts of his Long Poem were published by the National Poetry Foundation.
In addition to his work as a translator and poet, he wrote a number of short stories and many articles such as “L’influence de Whitman sur Pound” published in Paris, a tribute to Louis Zukofsky, and research and contributions to A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound published by the University of California Press. He edited Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters published by W. W. Norton in 1994. Also, he was an editorial assistant to Paideuma and made contributions to it.