H.K. Derby was born in 1932 in Watersmeet, Michigan, to parents Gerald Derby and Sarah Westfall. He was an only child. The family was well off, and owned a cabin off Pomeroy Lake, where Derby spent most of his early summers; he grew to love the idyllic setting of the summer house, and it would later become a great source of inspiration for his early poetry. Derby went to school in Watersmeet, where he met his future wife Carol Shilling. The two were close friends even as children, and when they both turned 18 they decided to marry.
In 1941 the newlywed couple moved to the cabin on Pomeroy Lake, where Derby began writing poems daily - poems which were later compiled in his two great early collections, "Our Forever Embrace," (1949) and "Sing!" (1951). In those years, a chronic case of bronchitis saved him from duty in World War II, a war whose influence seemed to hardly reach the sanctum Derby had constructed in his lakeside home. The love poems to his wife Carol which comprised "Our Forever Embrace" were, surprisingly, initially overlooked by most contemporary critics, but on its publication "Sing!" received immdiate recognition as the work of a superbly talented artist.
In July of 1963, Derby's mother Sarah died of cancer. The loss was soon followed by the tragic death of Derby's beloved wife, Carol, in September of the same year. Carol had been the object of an intense and powerful love, and when she died, Derby sunk into a brief period of despair in which he stopped working altogether. He soon picked up his pen again though, but now with a more sombre hand; his poetry would never be the same. In 1965 Derby travelled to the Congo in a desperate attempt to escape his pain. The sense of loss never left him, but he did regain a new love for the beauty and granduer to be found in the world. He returned home in 1968, and quickly completed the poems which were to be published in his most famous collection, "Whisper," the following year.
Derby continued to produce work over the following decades, though he confessed he found it increasingly difficult. He also travelled, visiting France, Germany, England, and even India. It was nearly 20 years before he published his next great work, "Bathing in the Sea" (1990).
Since then, only one more publication has been released - a collection of the poems Derby wrote in his time of greatest despair, after his wife had died, but before he left for the Congo. It was published in 1996 under the title "H.K. Derby: The Lost Poems, 1963-1965."
H.K. Derby is a master of the art of poetry. A prodigous talent whose career spanned from his youth to his old age, he wrote poems which subtly alert us to all that is worth feeling and observing in the world. His quiet, charming style tells us the deepest truths of ourselves, and the world around us. He continues to live on Pomeroy Lake, Michigan.