An Illinois-born poet, fiction writer, and editor, he is best known for works such as The Big Clock (1946) and Dead Reckoning (1938). He is regarded by some as one of the most significant poets of the Great Depression era.
He attended the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin. After moving to New York City, he became a poet and a political activist.
He was the founder and editor of The Partisan Review.
He was the son of a Chicago-based attorney. He married twice and had a child with his first wife, Rachel Meltzer.
He was a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway.