John Gould Fletcher was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in January of 1886. His father, also named John Fletcher, had fought in the Confederate Army and supported the family through a career in banking. Fletcher was not close to his father who was already fifty-five years old at the time of his birth. Fletcher’s mother was much closer to the young boy and was a known lover of literature and art.
When Fletcher was still quite young the family moved into a mansion in Little Rock. It was here that they remained for a number of years. Fletcher considered his home to be both gloomy and desolate. He spent long periods alone, a fact that would make its way into his later works. A great amount of influence came from the emotions and experiences associated with solitude. He spent most of his time reading, especially the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.
Fletcher went on to attend Harvard where he became familiar with Gautier, Baudelaire, and Dante Rossetti. It was during this time that he began writing his own poetry. Fletcher did not enjoy his time at university and after his father died in 1906 he returned to inherit the family fortune. He left the country in 1908 and did not return for many years. He eventually relocated to London, but he was unable to get any of his poems published.
In an effort to get his work to the public, Fletcher gave in and published five volumes of his poetry independently. They appeared in 1913. He did not get great reviews from critics and was even harder on himself. He went on to destroy his own unsold volumes. It was around this time that Fletcher was introduced to Amy Lowell, an “Imagist” poet whose work he would be closely associated with throughout his career and after his death.
The poet was also deeply influenced by the works of the Impressionist painters. He wrote a biography of Paul Gauguin which was published in 1921. This was followed by an autobiography in 1937 titled, Life Is My Song: The Autobiography Of John Gould Fletcher.
Fletcher was married twice, once to Florence Arbuthnot, and then later to Charlie May Simon, a noted author of children’s books. Fletcher’s life was not a happy one though, he was plagued by depression and in May of 1950, he committed suicide by drowning himself in a pond near his home in Little Rock.