Though he was Georgia-born, Aiken was raised in Massachusetts by a great-great-aunt after his father shot his mother and then committed suicide. Much of Aiken’s interest in psychology may stem from this traumatic childhood experience. A graduate of Harvard, Aiken published several volumes of verse, including Earth Triumphant (1911), The Charnel Rose (1918) and And In the Hanging Gardens (1933). Despite his awards, he never gained popularity and became increasingly bitter towards other writers throughout his life.
Aiken was also instrumental in promoting the work of Emily Dickinson, and, due to his effort, she is now considered a major American poet.