Robert Hayden (4 August 1913 – 25 February 1980) was an American poet, essayist, educator. He was appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1976.
Hayden was born Asa Bundy Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan to Ruth and Asa Sheffey (who separated before his birth). He was taken in by a foster family next door, Sue Ellen Westerfield and William Hayden, and grew up in a Detroit ghetto nicknamed "Paradise Valley". The Haydens' perpetually contentious marriage, coupled with Ruth Sheffey’s competition for young Hayden's affections, made for a traumatic childhood.Witnessing fights and suffering beatings, Hayden lived in a house fraught with chronic angers whose effects would stay with the poet throughout his adulthood. On top of that, his severe visual problems prevented him from participating in activities such as sports in which nearly everyone was involved. His childhood traumas resulted in debilitating bouts of depression which he later called "my dark nights of the soul."
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