Henri Anthony Coulette was born on March 26, 1927, in Los Angeles. His father was a Breton, while his mother had Irish heritage. Coulette earned a BA from California State College (now, California State University, Los Angeles), where he would later teach, and an MFA and PhD from the University of Iowa, where he studied in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop under the tutelage of John Berryman and Robert Lowell.
Coulette published two poetry collections during his lifetime: The Family Goldschmitt (Scribner’s, 1971) and The War of the Secret Agents (Scribner’s, 1966), a début that earned him the James D. Phelan Award and the 1965 Lamont Poetry Prize. His manuscript, “And Come to Closure,” was to be his third collection. Instead it was included in The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette (University of Arkansas Press, 1990), edited by Donald Justice and Robert Mezey, and published posthumously. Coulette’s poems also appeared in anthologies. Additionally, he edited several anthologies. With Philip Levine, Coulette co-edited Character and Crisis: A Contemporary Reader (McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966). His other anthologies are The Unstrung Lyre: Interviews with Fourteen Poets (National Endowment for the Arts, 1965) and Midland: The Writing Workshops of the State University of Iowa (Random House, 1961), co-edited with Justice and poet Paul Engle.
In addition to prizes for his first collection, Coulette also received a Guggenheim Fellowship. For his academic work and teaching, he was named Outstanding Professor of the Year in 1970 and 1976.
After earning his doctorate, Coulette taught English at a high school. He was next an instructor in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1957–59) before settling into his role as a full-time English professor at California State University, Los Angeles, where he served on the faculty from 1959 until his death in 1988. He was the associate chair of the English department during the 1974–75 academic year and served as faculty advisor to the campus literary magazine, Statement.
Henri Coulette, who had struggled with both anxiety and a bout of pneumonia in his final years, died of heart failure on March 26, 1988, in South Pasadena, California.