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Joseph Payne Brennan papers

Biographical note

Joseph Payne Brennan was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1918 to Joseph Payne and Nellie (Holborn) Brennan. He was raised in New Haven, Connecticut and spent the summers on his grandmother's farm in East Harland, Connecticut. He had rheumatic fever at five and could not walk for the better part of a year. He recovered but described himself as being unable to participate in vigorous games remarking that this left him to rely on his own fantasy world for entertainment. He attended parochial schools where he remembered the discipline being "severe and unremitting". On graduation from high school, he attended the Junior College of Commerce, later Quinnipiac College. He had already started writing poetry and some of it was published in the school newspaper. In what would have been Brennan's sophomore year, his father became ill and subsequently died. Young Brennan was forced to leave school and go to work to support himself, his mother and his sister Loetta. Later, when asked about his education, Brennan referred to himself as self-educated. In interviews he sounded envious of others' educational opportunities and claimed that he had been ignored by the academic world, possibly even denied a Pulitzer, because he did not hold a degree.

Brennan's first job was in advertising for the New Haven Journal-Courier from 1937-1939. He was then lured to the weekly, Theatre News, established by Jack Schaefer in 1940. From there he took a job at Yale from which he took leave between 1943 and 1946 for military service. He spent about 18 months at Camp Tyson in Tennessee at the Barrage Balloon Center before joining the 26th Yankee Division of Patton's Third Army for the final push across Europe. He was awarded four battle stars, one of them for the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his discharge from the army, Brennan returned to his position at Yale and worked there until he retired in August of 1985.

He married Doris M. Philbrick in 1970. The mother of six children by her first marriage, she was also a poet and employed in the Yale library system.

Brennan was a prolific writer in spite of time constraints and ill health. He wrote about 500 short stories in the Western, fantasy and horror genres. These have been published separately and included in at least 100 anthologies. He also wrote more than 2000 poems. The poem "When snow is hung" was his first paid publication and it appeared in the Christian Science Monitor in 1940. His first income earning story was "Endurance", a Western, which was published by Standard Magazines in 1948. His first story to appear in Weird Tales, an iconic horror publication, was "The Green Parrot". His stories and poems appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, The Chicago Review, Commonweal, The Yale Literary Magazine and many others. His works have been translated into many languages, produced for the Thriller TV series and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, adapted for radio, read for tape and plagiarized.

Brennan belonged to the Poetry Society of America and the New England Poetry Club. He was the publisher and editor of two highly respected small magazines: Macabre (1957-1976) which specialized in horror short stories and poetry and Essence (1950-1977) which published poetry of all types. He received the Hartshorne award in 1957, the Leonora Speyer Memorial Award in 1961, the International Clark Ashton Smith Poetry Award in 1978, and a special convention award for lifetime achievement award from the 1982 World Fantasy Convention and many other poetry prizes. He died in 1990.