Lynda Hull was born on December 5, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey. She ran away from home at the age of sixteen, after having received a scholarship to Princeton University. She then married a Chinese immigrant from Shanghai and spent the next decade moving among various Chinatowns in the United States and Canada.
By 1982, Hull had reconnected with her family and begun to study poetry seriously. While working toward an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she met the poet David Wojahn, whom she married in 1984. Over the next several years, Hull received graduate degrees from John Hopkins and Indiana universities and lived briefly in a number of cities in the U.S. and Europe. Her longest permanent residency was in Chicago, where she was living when she wrote many of her last poems.
Hull’s four books of poetry are Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2006); The Only World: Poems (HarperCollins, 1995); Star Ledger: Poems (University of Iowa Press, 1991), which won the 1991 Carl Sandburg Award and the 1990 Edwin Ford Piper Award; and Ghost Money (University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), which won the Juniper Prize.
Influenced heavily by Hart Crane (Hull had allegedly memorized his long poem “The Bridge” in its entirety) and jazz musicians, some of whom she references in her work, Hull wrote poems charged with lyric exuberance and haunted by ecstatic references to drugs and material decadence.
In his introduction to Hull’s Collected Poems, Yusef Komunyakaa wrote:
Hull’s poetry creates tension through what the reader believes he or she knows; it juxtaposes moments that allude to public history alongside private knowledge. Thus, each poem challenges and coaxes the reader into an act of participation.
The poet David St. John wrote that “of all the poets of my generation, Lynda Hull remains the most heartbreaking, merciful, and consoling.”
Hull was the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council; she also received four Pushcart Prizes. She taught English at Indiana University, De Paul University, and in the MFA writing program at Vermont College. She also served as a poetry editor for the journal Crazyhorse.
Hull died in an automobile accident in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on March 29, 1994.