Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1904, E.L. Mayo attended schools in Malden, Massachusetts, then Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. For three years thereafter he held miscellaneous jobs as a brush salesman, clerk in a music store, waiter in the Mount Washington Hotel, wine steward in the Bahamas, etc. In 1929 he returned to study at the University of Minnesota. He was graduated magna cum laude in 1932, later returning to take his M.A. in 1936. He was a recipient of the Payne Prize (1932), the Blumenthal Prize (Poetry, Chicago, 1942), and the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Fellowship (1953–54). From 1947 Mayo taught at Drake University. He was professor of English and in 1961 received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Iowa Wesleyan. Professor Mayo died in 1979. He is survived by his wife, Myra, and three children, and grandchildren.

E. L. Mayo was a quiet poet who embraced obscurity almost as a condition for his intellectual freedom. Still, a few discerning critics noticed. David Daiches has said that “Mayo’s poems … pretend to be simple prose–like utterances, whereas in fact the best of them contain an echoing poetic meaning which begins to relase itself a split second after we have read the words.”

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