Clement Wood was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and grew up in Birmingham. His father was a lawyer, his mother was a concert elocutionist, and his maternal grandfather was a poet. Wood began writing poems as a child. He graduated with an AB degree from the University of Alabama in 1909, where he was the editor of the yearbook, The Corolla. Wood attended law school at Yale University, obtaining an LLB in 1911. While at Yale, he was the assistant editor of the Yale Law Journal. From 1911 to 1912, Wood practiced law in Birmingham. He was made a judge in 1913 but was soon removed from the bench after running afoul of the political establishment. After an unsuccessful run for city office, Wood moved to New York, where he worked briefly as secretary to novelist Upton Sinclair. From 1914 to 1922, Wood supported himself by working as a teacher while establishing his credentials as a poet.
In 1917, Wood won the Newark [N.J.] 250th Anniversary Prize with his poem, “The Smithy of God.” That same year, his first book of poetry, Glad of Earth, was published. In 1920, Wood’s poem, “Jehovah,” won a prize from the Lyric Society. In the following years, Wood worked at a variety of jobs and wrote prolifically in a wide array of genres, although much of his work was not well received by critics. Wood spent two years as a lecturer on the White Star line of ships. He taught correspondence courses, sang spirituals in concerts and on the radio, and wrote approximately seventy Little Blue Book pamphlets, a series aimed at the American working class. Wood was a Socialist and lectured for the Ingersoll Forum of the American Society for the Advancement of Atheism. He was highly opinionated and seemed to seek out controversy. Wood was a poet of the Romantic school and criticized the newer trend of Realism in poetry. He was active in New York literary society, however, especially the Poetry Society of America. At the age of sixty-two, Wood suffered a stroke at his home in Delansen, N.Y., and died in a hospital in Schenectady.
Clement Wood was primarily a poet, but he also wrote novels, murder mysteries, spy stories, literary criticism, biography, history, reference works for beginning poets, and books about games. Some of his best known poems are written in black dialect.
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Photo from The Glory Road, 1936.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.