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The Life of BRYON A. VAZAKAS

Bryon A. Vazakas was born on September 24, 1905 to Greek immigrant Alfred Vazakas and Margaret Keffer, a Reading-native daughter of former Pennsylvania state legislator Rep. Aaron T. C. Keffer, who was a descendent of Henry Clay. Bryon spent his early years in New York City, but after his father died, his family moved around until finally settling in Reading, PA in 1922. Even though he never received more than an eighth grade education, Bryon showed an early aptitude for reading and writing which continued into his teenage and early adult years, when he concentrated on “reading, riting, and roaming.” He became well-read, acquainted with classical music, and quickly established himself as a writer in Reading. Less known, however, was his talent of writing poetry, although some works appeared anonymously in local publications. After 1935, Bryon requested that nearly all of his 1,500 poems be destroyed, saying he had found his true poetic voice.

From 1936 through 1942, his poems and writings were published both locally and nationally in the American Poetry Journal. There is evidence to support the fact that he was also the author of a 16-page pamphlet, The Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, Reading, Pennsylvania: Its History and Purpose, as well as a 1942 book The History of Reading Hospital. Bryon cultivated relationships with other poets, including William Carlos Williams, who believed he used an innovative stanzaic technique and helped him publish his poems. He also help a joint reading once with Tennessee Williams. In 1947, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his book Transfigured Night, which he lost to Robert Lowell. After hearing Lowells win, he said, “He deserved it. But I did, too.” The following years he enjoyed success nationally and internationally, lecturing and reading at Harvard University and traveling abroad to England, Paris, and Majorca.

In the late 1960s, Bryon returned to Reading and earned himself the name, “the walking poet” for his habit of roaming through Reading, often the run-down areas, and writing about his reflections at the Reading Public Library. He published multiple books and works, and was honored as Readings unofficial poet laureate. In 1981, Albright College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humanities.

Bryon passed away shortly before his 82nd birthday, in 1987. His brother erected his tombstone in Gethsamene with the simple inscription, Night Transfigured. His papers were willed to Albright College, where they are currently held in the Gingrich Librarys Special Collections.

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2016.03.07
Life History

Bryon A. Vazakas was born on September 24, 1905 to Greek immigrant Alfred Vazakas and Margaret Keffer, a Reading-native daughter of former Pennsylvania state legislator Rep. Aaron T. C. Keffer, who was a descendent of Henry Clay. Bryon spent his early years in New York City, but after his father died, his family moved around until finally settling in Reading, PA in 1922. Even though he never received more than an eighth grade education, Bryon showed an early aptitude for reading and writing which continued into his teenage and early adult years, when he concentrated on “reading, riting, and roaming.” He became well-read, acquainted with classical music, and quickly established himself as a writer in Reading. Less known, however, was his talent of writing poetry, although some works appeared anonymously in local publications. After 1935, Bryon requested that nearly all of his 1,500 poems be destroyed, saying he had found his true poetic voice.

From 1936 through 1942, his poems and writings were published both locally and nationally in the American Poetry Journal. There is evidence to support the fact that he was also the author of a 16-page pamphlet, The Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, Reading, Pennsylvania: Its History and Purpose, as well as a 1942 book The History of Reading Hospital. Bryon cultivated relationships with other poets, including William Carlos Williams, who believed he used an innovative stanzaic technique and helped him publish his poems. He also help a joint reading once with Tennessee Williams. In 1947, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his book Transfigured Night, which he lost to Robert Lowell. After hearing Lowells win, he said, “He deserved it. But I did, too.” The following years he enjoyed success nationally and internationally, lecturing and reading at Harvard University and traveling abroad to England, Paris, and Majorca.

In the late 1960s, Bryon returned to Reading and earned himself the name, “the walking poet” for his habit of roaming through Reading, often the run-down areas, and writing about his reflections at the Reading Public Library. He published multiple books and works, and was honored as Readings unofficial poet laureate. In 1981, Albright College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humanities.

Bryon passed away shortly before his 82nd birthday, in 1987. His brother erected his tombstone in Gethsamene with the simple inscription, Night Transfigured. His papers were willed to Albright College, where they are currently held in the Gingrich Librarys Special Collections.