W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
"Much to the chagrin of their neighbors as well as the campus authorities, Auden and Kallman hosted regular 'At Homes.' Unfortunately, Auden’s only literary record of the group, a masque that Auden wrote for his guests to perform at one of the 'At Homes,' no longer exists: 'The Queen’s Masque, by Bojo the Homo, played by Kallman’s Klever Kompanions.' Auden described it as 'really obscene,' and reacted to the disappearance of the manuscript by saying, 'I do hope the F.B.I. hasn’t been prying up here.'" (source)
I believe that several Auden biographies offer more details about Auden's life in Ann Arbor, but I'm not into such a big research project right now. So I've offered you some 80-year-old gossip.
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
"The crucial link between Brodsky and the U-M was the late Carl R. Proffer, professor of Russian Literature. Proffer and his wife Ellendea were co-founders of Ardis Press, which had published a number of Brodsky's works. He happened to be in Leningrad visiting Brodsky in May, 1972, when the poet received notification from the authorities that he was being issued an exit visa for emigration to Israel. After responding that he was not interested in leaving his native land and culture, Brodsky was warned that the coming winter would be very cold — a threat that was not lost on a man who had been convicted of 'social parasitism' for living on his poetry and had served a stretch in exile working on a collective farm in the Russian far north. He decided to discuss the matter with his American friend, and Proffer, in his optimistic way, told Brodsky that he could come and teach in Ann Arbor. Brodsky accepted the idea, and Proffer contacted Benjamin Stolz, who at the time chaired the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures. After receiving authorization to hire Brodsky, Stolz obtained an immigration visa personally approved by William Rogers, Secretary of State, and flew to Chicago to get a federal work permit." (source)
Auden has also been given credit for assisting Brodsky to come to Michigan:
"Auden was instrumental in bringing Joseph Brodsky to Ann Arbor for a teaching position in 1972 when the Soviet Union cast him out as a danger to the State. In 1987 when Brodsky was no longer in residence at Michigan (alas!), he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and in 1991 he was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States." (source)
For part of the time he was here in Ann Arbor, Brodsky rented an apartment on the top floor of a very impressive home just up the street from my house. I also walk past there often, in the opposite direction from the house where Auden had lived. Very recently, this house was completely renovated and enlarged, so it is much grander-looking than it was back then -- I once was inside it on a home tour and I think I even saw the apartment where Brodsky had formerly lived.
Robert Hayden (1913-1980)
Robert Hayden is considered one of the great Black American poets. A native of Detroit, he was an undergraduate at Detroit City College, now Wayne State University. He did graduate work at the University of Michigan, and received a master's degree in 1944. While studying at Michigan, he was especially encouraged by Auden, who was then teaching at the university. After teaching at Fisk University for a number of years, Hayden became a professor in the Michigan English Department, where he taught from 1969 until his death in 1980.
During the time he taught in Ann Arbor, Hayden lived a few blocks from my current home, and only one block from the house where I lived at that time. I remember seeing him and sometimes briefly talking to him when he was walking his dog around the block. His dog was named Sadie, and he told me "Sadie is a lady." At that time, I had read some of his poetry, and knew his very esteemed reputation, but of course never mentioned it in our very brief conversations.
An anonymous article at poetry.org, titled "Robert Hayden's Bus Route," included this memory:
"Hayden lived at 1201 Gardner Avenue, not far from campus; however, his severe nearsightedness made it impossible for him to drive, or even walk the rutted sidewalks to work. As a result, Hayden regularly took the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's #5 bus that ran along Packard Street. It was short ride between the Congregational Church on State Street near campus and the intersection of Gardner and Packard. From there, he had a quick walk home, along a sidewalk bordered with hedges and lilac bushes." (source)Recently, the Ann Arbor City Council voted to establish a committee to consider granting special historical status to the house on Gardner, in honor of Hayden and his contribution to the university. (source)