Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell (May 6, 1914 – October 14, 1965) was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist. He was the 11th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—a position that now bears the title Poet Laureate of the United States.

Among other honors, Jarrell was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the years 1947–48; a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, in 1951; and the National Book Award for Poetry, in 1961.

Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell
BornMay 6, 1914
Nashville, Tennessee
DiedOctober 14, 1965 (aged 51)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
OccupationPoet, critic, and novelist
Notable worksThe Woman at the Washington Zoo, The Lost World, Pictures from an Institution
Notable awardsNational Book Award


Youth and education

Jarrell was a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He attended Hume-Fogg High School where he "practiced tennis, starred in some school plays, and began his career as a critic with satirical essays in a school magazine."[1] He received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1935. While at Vanderbilt, he edited the student humor magazine The Masquerader, was captain of the tennis team, made Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude. He studied there under Robert Penn Warren, who first published Jarrell's criticism; Allen Tate, who first published Jarrell's poetry; and John Crowe Ransom, who gave Jarrell his first teaching job as a Freshman Composition instructor at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Although all of these Vanderbilt teachers were heavily involved with the conservative Southern Agrarian movement, Jarrell did not become an Agrarian himself. According to Stephanie Burt, "Jarrell—a devotee of Marx and Auden— embraced his teachers' literary stances while rejecting their politics."[1] He also completed his master's degree in English at Vanderbilt in 1937, beginning his thesis on A. E. Housman (which he completed in 1939).

When Ransom left Vanderbilt for Kenyon College in Ohio that same year, a number of his loyal students, including Jarrell, followed him to Kenyon. Jarrell taught English at Kenyon for two years, coached tennis, and served as the resident faculty member in an undergraduate dormitory that housed future writers Robie Macauley, Peter Taylor,[2] and poet Robert Lowell. Lowell and Jarrell remained good friends and peers until Jarrell's death. According to Lowell biographer Paul Mariani, "Jarrell was the first person of [Lowell's] own generation [whom he] genuinely held in awe" due to Jarrell's brilliance and confidence even at the age of 23.[3]


Jarrell went on to teach at the University of Texas at Austin from 1939 to 1942, where he began to publish criticism and where he met his first wife, Mackie Langham. In 1942 he left the university to join the United States Army Air Forces.[4] According to his obituary, he "[started] as a flying cadet, [then] he later became a celestial navigation tower operator, a job title he considered the most poetic in the Air Force."[5] His early poetry, in particular The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, would principally concern his wartime experiences in the Air Force.

The Jarrell obituary goes on to state that "after being discharged from the service he joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., for a year. During his time in New York, he also served as the temporary book review editor for The Nation magazine." However, Jarrell was uncomfortable living in the city and "claimed to hate New York's crowds, high cost of living, status-conscious sociability, and lack of greenery."[1]. He soon left the city for the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina where, as an associate professor of English, he taught modern poetry and "imaginative writing." [5]

Jarrell divorced his first wife and married Mary von Schrader, a young woman whom he met at a summer writer's conference in Colorado, in 1952.[1] They first lived together while Jarrell was teaching for a term at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Then the couple settled back in Greensboro with Mary's daughters from her previous marriage. The couple also moved temporarily to Washington D.C. in 1956 when Jarrell served as the consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress (a position that later became titled "Poet Laureate") for two years, returning to Greensboro and the University of North Carolina after his term ended.

Depression and death

Towards the end of his life, in 1963, Stephanie Burt notes: "Randall's behavior began to change. Approaching his fiftieth birthday, he seems to have worried deeply about his advancing age. . . After President Kennedy was shot, Randall spent days in front of the television weeping. Sad to the point of inertia, Randall sought help from a Cincinnati psychiatrist, who prescribed [the antidepressant drug] Elavil."[1] The drug made him manic and in 1965, he was hospitalized and taken off Elavil. At this point, he was no longer manic, but he became depressed again. Burt also states that in April The New York Times published a "viciously condescending" review by Joseph Bennett of Jarrell's most recent book of poems, The Lost World, which said "his work is thoroughly dated; prodigiousness encouraged by an indulgent and sentimental Mama-ism; its overriding feature is doddering infantilism."[6] Soon afterwards, Jarrell slashed a wrist and returned to the hospital.[1] After leaving the hospital, he stayed at home that summer under his wife's care and returned to teaching at the University of North Carolina that fall.

Then, near dusk on October 14, 1965, while walking along U.S. highway 15-501 near Chapel Hill, N.C., where he had gone seeking medical treatment, Jarrell was struck by a car and killed.[5] In trying to determine the cause of death, "[Jarrell's wife] Mary, the police, the coroner, and ultimately the state of North Carolina judged his death accidental, a verdict made credible by his apparent improvements in health...and the odd, sidelong manner of the collision; medical professionals judged the injuries consistent with an accident and not with suicide."[1] Nevertheless, because Jarrell had recently been treated for mental illness and a previous suicide attempt, some of the people closest to him were not entirely convinced that his death was accidental and suspected that he might have taken his own life.

In a letter to Elizabeth Bishop about a week after Jarrell's death, Robert Lowell wrote, "There's a small chance [that Jarrell's death] was an accident. . . [but] I think it was suicide, and so does everyone else, who knew him well."[7] Jarrell's death being a suicide has since become accepted practically as fact, even by people who were not personally close to him. The idea has been perpetuated by some well known writers. A. Alvarez, in his book The Savage God, lists Jarrell as a twentieth-century writer who killed himself, and James Atlas refers to Jarrell's "suicide" several times in his biography of Delmore Schwartz. The idea of Jarrell's death being a suicide was always denied by his wife.[8]


On February 28, 1966, a memorial service was held in Jarrell's honor at Yale University, and some of the best-known poets in the country attended and spoke at the event, including Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, John Berryman, Stanley Kunitz, and Robert Penn Warren. Reporting on the memorial service, The New York Times quoted Lowell who said that Jarrell was "'the most heartbreaking poet of our time'. . . [and] had written 'the best poetry in English about the Second World War.'"[9] These memorial tributes formed the basis for the book Randall Jarrell 1914-1965 which Farrar, Straus and Giroux published the following year.

In 2004, the Metropolitan Nashville Historical Commission approved placement of a historical marker in his honor, to be placed at his alma mater, Hume-Fogg High School. A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was placed near his burial site in Greensboro, North Carolina.



In terms of the subject matter of Jarrell's work, the scholar Stephen Burt observed, "Randall Jarrell's best-known poems are poems about the Second World War, poems about bookish children and childhood, and poems, such as 'Next Day,' in the voices of aging women."[1] Burt also succinctly summarizes the essence of Jarrell's poetic style as follows:

Jarrell's stylistic particularities have been hard for critics to hear and describe, both because the poems call readers' attention instead to their characters and because Jarrell's particular powers emerge so often from mimesis of speech. Jarrell's style responds to the alienations it delineates by incorporating or troping speech and conversation, linking emotional events within one person's psyche to speech acts that might take place between persons. . .Jarrell's style pivots on his sense of loneliness and on the intersubjectivity he sought as a response.[1]

Jarrell was first published in 1940 in "5 Young Poets", which also included work by John Berryman.[10] His first separate collection of poetry, Blood for a Stranger, which was heavily influenced by W.H. Auden, was published in 1942 – the same year he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. His second and third books, Little Friend, Little Friend (1945) and Losses (1948), drew heavily on his Army experiences. The short lyric "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is Jarrell's most famous war poem and one that is frequently anthologized.

His reputation as a poet was not firmly established until 1960 when his National Book Award-winning[11] collection The Woman at the Washington Zoo was published. Starting with this book, Jarrell broke free of Auden's influence and the influence of the New Critics and developed a style that mixed Modernist and Romantic influences, incorporating the aesthetics of William Wordsworth in order to create more sympathetic character sketches and dramatic monologues.[1] The scholar Stephen Burt notes, "Jarrell took from Wordsworth the idea that poems had to be 'convincing as speech' before they were anything else."[1] His final volume, The Lost World, published in 1965, continued in the same style and cemented Jarrell's reputation as a poet; many critics consider it to be his best work. Stephen Burt states that "in the 'Lost World' poems and throughout Jarrell's oeuvre. . .he took care to define and defend the self [and]. . .his lonely personae seek intersubjective confirmation and . . .his alienated characters resist the so-called social world."[1] Burt identifies the chief influences on Jarrell's poetry to be "Proust, Wordsworth, Rilke, Freud, and the poets and thinkers of Jarrell's era [particularly his close friend, Hannah Arendt]."[1]


From the start of his writing career, Jarrell earned a solid reputation as an influential poetry critic. Encouraged by Edmund Wilson, who published Jarrell's criticism in The New Republic, Jarrell developed his style of critique which was often witty and sometimes fiercely critical. However, as he got older, his criticism began to change, showing a more positive emphasis. His appreciations of Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams helped to establish or resuscitate their reputations as significant American poets, and his poet friends often returned the favor, as when Lowell wrote a review of Jarrell's book of poems The Seven League Crutches in 1951. Lowell wrote that Jarrell was "the most talented poet under forty, and one whose wit, pathos, and grace remind us more of Pope or Matthew Arnold than of any of his contemporaries." In the same review, Lowell calls Jarrell's first book of poems, Blood for A Stranger, "a tour-de-force in the manner of Auden."[12] And in another book review for Jarrell's Selected Poems, a few years later, fellow-poet Karl Shapiro compared Jarrell to "the great modern Rainer Maria Rilke" and stated that the book "should certainly influence our poetry for the better. It should become a point of reference, not only for younger poets, but for all readers of twentieth-century poetry."[13]

Jarrell is also noted for his essays on Robert Frost — whose poetry was a large influence on Jarrell's own — Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and others, which were mostly collected in Poetry and the Age (1953). Many scholars consider him the most astute poetry critic of his generation, and in 1979, the poet and scholar Peter Levi went so far as to advise younger writers, "Take more notice of Randall Jarrell than you do of any academic critic."[14]

In an introduction to a selection of Jarrell's essays, the poet Brad Leithauser wrote the following assessment of Jarrell as a critic:

[Jarrell's] multiple and eclectic virtues —originality, erudition, wit, probity, and an irresistible passion —combined to make him the best American poet-critic since Eliot. Or one could call him, after granting Eliot the English citizenship he so actively embraced, the best poet-critic we have ever had. Whichever side of the Atlantic one chooses to place Eliot, Jarrell was his superior in at least one significant respect. He captured a world that any contemporary poet will recognize as "the poetry scene"; his Poetry and the Age might even now be retitled Poetry and Our Age.[15]

Fiction, translations, and children's books

In addition to poetry and criticism, Jarrell also published a satiric novel, Pictures from an Institution, in 1954 (a National Book Award for Fiction finalist)[16] — drawing upon his teaching experiences at Sarah Lawrence College, which served as the model for the fictional Benton College. He also wrote several children's books, among which The Bat-Poet (1964) and The Animal Family (1965) are considered prominent (and feature illustrations by Maurice Sendak). Jarrell translated poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and others, a play by Anton Chekhov, and several Grimm fairy tales.


  • Blood for A Stranger. NY: Harcourt, 1942.[17]
  • Little Friend, Little Friend. NY: Dial, 1945.
  • Losses. NY: Harcourt, 1948.
  • The Seven League Crutches. NY: Harcourt, 1951.
  • Poetry and the Age. NY: Knopf, 1953.
  • Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy. New York: Knopf, 1954
  • Selected Poems. New York: Knopf, 1955.
  • Randall Jarrell's Book of Stories: An Anthology. Selected and with an introduction by Randall Jarrell. New York: New York Review Books, 1958.
  • The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Poems and Translations. New York: Atheneum, 1960.
  • A Sad Heart at the Supermarket: Essays & Fables. NY: Atheneum, 1962.
  • Selected Poems including The Woman at the Washington Zoo. NY: Macmillan, 1964.
  • The Bat-Poet. Pictures by Maurice Sendak. NY: Macmillan, 1964.
  • The Gingerbread Rabbit. Illustrated by Garth Williams. NY: Random House, 1965
  • The Lost World. NY: Macmillan, 1965.
  • The Animal Family. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. NY: Pantheon Books, 1965.
  • Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965. Edited by Robert Lowell, Peter Taylor, and Robert Penn Warren. NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968.[18]
  • The Third Book of Criticism. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969.
  • The Complete Poems. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969.[19]
  • Fly by Night. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976.
  • "Faust: Part One" by Goethe, (translator). Farrah, Straus & Giroux 1976
  • Kipling, Auden & Co.: Essays and Reviews, 1935-1964. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979.
  • Randall Jarrell's Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection. edited by Mary Jarrell and Stuart Wright. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
  • Selected Poems. Edited by William Pritchard. NY: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1990.
  • No Other Book: Selected Essays. Edited by Brad Leithauser. NY: HarperCollins, 1995.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Burt, Stephen. Randall Jarrell and His Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
  2. ^ McAlexander, Hugh, "Peter Taylor: The Undergraduate Years at Kenyon," The Kenyon Review, New Series, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (Summer - Autumn, 1999), pp. 43-57
  3. ^ Mariani, Paul. Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell. New York: Norton, 1994.
  4. ^ Jarrell, Randall, 1st Lieutenant, USAF
  5. ^ a b c "Randall Jarrell, Poet, Killed By Car in Carolina." The New York Times 15 October 1965.
  6. ^ Ian Hamilton, "Ashamed of the Planet," London Review of Books, Vol. 22 No. 5, 2 March 2000, pages 16-17.
  7. ^ Lowell, Robert. "To Elizabeth Bishop." 28 October 1965. Letter 464 in The Letters of Robert Lowell. Ed. Saskia Hamilton. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005. 465.
  8. ^ Ferguson, Suzanne. "The Death of Randall Jarrell: A Problem in Legendary Biography." The Georgia Review 37.4 (1983): 866-876.
  9. ^ Gilroy, Harry. "Poets Honor Memory of Jarrell at Yale." The New York Times 1 March 1966.
  10. ^ "5 Young Poets," published in 1940 by New Directions, contained forty pages of poems by each of the following poets: Mary Barnard, George Marion O'Donnell, Randall Jarrell, John Berryman, and W. R. Moses.
  11. ^ "National Book Awards – 1961". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
    (With acceptance speech by Jarrell and essay by Scott Challener from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  12. ^ Lowell, Robert. "With Wild Dogmatism." New York Times Book Review 7 October 1951, p. 7.
  13. ^ Shapiro, Karl. "In the Forest of the Little People." The New York Times Book Review 13 March 1955.
  14. ^ The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 14 Peter Levi, Interviewed by Jannika Hurwitt. Issue 76, Fall 1979.[1]
  15. ^ Leithauser, Brad. Introduction. No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
  16. ^ "National Book Awards – 1955". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
  17. ^ Featured Author: Randall Jarrell, with News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times
  18. ^ Julian Moynahan, "Master of Modern Plain," New York Times, September 3, 1967
  19. ^ Helen Vendler, "Randall Jarrell, Child and Mother, Frightened and Consoling," New York Times, February 2, 1969

External links

Alex Grant (poet)

Alex Grant is a Scottish-born American poet and instructor.

Ange Mlinko

Ange Mlinko (born Philadelphia) is an American poet and critic. The author of five books of poetry, Mlinko was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2014-15. She teaches poetry at the University of Florida, and is the poetry editor of Subtropics. Her most recent book, Distant Mandate, was published in July 2017.

Anne Winters (poet)

Anne Winters is an American poet, leftist, and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Having received an early university education at both New York University and Columbia University in New York City, where she was born and raised, she went on to complete her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She has studied, in various schools, under the well-known American poets Allen Tate, Randall Jarrell and Robert Lowell. She currently teaches British literature, the Bible (Winters is well-versed in classical Greek, Latin and Hebrew), and graduate courses in translation and poetry.

New York City is the primary subject of her poems. She has won several national awards, most recently the William Carlos Williams Award and Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for 'The Displaced of Capital.' She was the recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim fellowship.

Elizabeth Hadaway

Elizabeth Hadaway is a poet whose book Fire Baton won the 10th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Award for poetry. She previously published under the name Leigh Palmer. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and prior to that a Randall Jarrell Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Five Young American Poets

Five Young American Poets was a three volume series of poetry collections released from 1940 to 1944. The series was published by New Directions Publishers (Norfolk, Connecticut; James Laughlin, publisher).

Volume I - 1940 includes selected poetry by:

W. R. Moses

Randall Jarrell

George Marion O'Donnell

John Berryman

Mary BarnardReviews.Volume II - 1941 includes selected poetry by:

Clark Mills

Karl Shapiro

David Schubert

Jeanne McGahey

Paul GoodmanVolume III - 1944 includes selected poetry by:

Eve Merriam

John Frederick Nims

Jean Garrigue

Tennessee Williams

Alejandro Carrión

Heather Ross Miller

Heather Ross Miller (born 1939) is an American writer.Miller was born in Albemarle, North Carolina. In 1961, she earned a bachelor's degree from Woman's College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). She went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from the college in 1969. For the 1968-69 and 1973–74 years, she earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Inspired by professor and poet Randall Jarrell, Miller became an instructor in reading and writing.

Jan Cox Speas

Jan Cox Speas (1925–1971) is a short story writer and novelist born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1925. She studied creative writing with Hiram Haydn at Woman's College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, or UNCG), from which she graduated in 1945. From 1954 to 1960 she published Bride of the MacHugh, My Lord Monleigh, and My Love, My Enemy. She also published many short stories in magazines, from pulp to slick. She returned to UNC-G and secured her master's degree in Fine Arts in 1964, submitting her fourth novel The Growing Season as her thesis. Her mentor and advisor was noted poet Randall Jarrell. After graduation, she began teaching English and Creative Writing at Guilford College, also in Greensboro. Speas was well known for her historical romances during the 1950s and 1960s. Following her death from a heart attack in 1971, Avon Publications brought out paperback editions of her romances. By 1978 there were more than a million copies of her books in print. The author was married to John Speas; they lived in Greensboro and had two children, Cynthia and Gregory.

Karl Shapiro

Karl Jay Shapiro (November 10, 1913 – May 14, 2000) was an American poet. He was appointed the fifth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1946.

Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin

Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin (December 12, 1913–March 19, 1995) was a poet and influential member of the Memphis, Tennessee literary community.

Beaudoin is best known for inventing the "eye poem," a poetic form that combined words and pictures. Throughout his career, Beaudoin met and corresponded with a wide range of better-known poets, such as William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Randall Jarrell, and Ezra Pound. Beaudoin also had an important influence as leader of the Memphis literary community, presiding over a literary circle described by Memphis author James Conaway in his memoir Memphis Afternoons.

During the Depression era, Beaudoin lived in New Orleans, and he later ran an art gallery for several years in Greenwich Village, New York.

Beaudoin pioneered the "eye poem" in the 1940s, and one newspaper account of his career states that Beaudoin produced thousands of eye poems over a ten-year period. A folio edition of 6,000 poems was published by Archangel Press in 1947. His work appeared in over 100 publications. Beaudoin also founded the Poetry Society of Tennessee.

Beaudoin served as a kind of father figure to many Memphis writers, and his house on the Mississippi river was the site of his literary salon. Memphis poet and artist Frances Cowden, a member of Beaudoin's circle, later recalled that Inisfree, as he called his home on the river, was a place where local poets would gather to talk about, and read, poetry with Beaudoin: "We would all go down there and read poetry and listen to him talk about poetry. And if you had a big decision you needed to make in your life, you would go and talk to Kenneth about it first because he always gave good advice." Beaudoin was named "Poet Laureate of the River" in 1976 at the Mid-South Festival.

Beaudoin was also known for the "gemstone awards" he would give to poets.

Starting in the 1950s, Beaudoin supported himself as chief clerk in criminal intelligence with the Memphis Police Department. Beaudoin considered the job a source of rich insight into human nature. In a 1981 newspaper interview Beaudoin explained, "My police job kept me close to human beings in tense situations.... From a poet's point of view, it was perhaps the most important job I could have had. When you associate with people on a day-to-day basis, there's nothing exciting about it. You don't even remember it. But when people are under pressure, you can talk to them differently and the experience becomes memorable. Where else could you learn as much about people as at a police station?" Beaudoin retired from his police job in 1980, due to blindness.

Beaudoin was a charter member and officer of the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society that was formed in 1951. The Society performed and reported on the first house excavation at Chucalissa Indian Village. The Society was heavily involved with early archaeological and geological surveys and excavations in eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, northeastern Alabama and western Tennessee.

Beaudoin's papers are housed at the University of Memphis Special Collections Department.

List of poetry collections

A poetry collection is often a compilation of several poems by one poet to be published in a single volume or chapbook. A collection can include any number of poems, ranging from a few (e.g. the four long poems in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets) to several hundred poems (as is often seen in collections of haiku). Typically the poems included in single volume of poetry, or a cycle of poems, are linked by their style or thematic material. Most poets publish several volumes of poetry through the course their life while other poets publish one (e.g. Walt Whitman's lifelong expansion of Leaves of Grass).

The notion of a "collection" differs in definition from volumes of a poet's "collected poems", "selected poems" or from a poetry anthology. Typically, a volume entitled "Collected Poems" is a compilation by a poet or an editor of a poet's work that is often both published and previously unpublished, drawn over a set span of years of the poet's work, or the entire poet's life, that represents a more complete or definitive edition of the poet's work. Comparatively, a volume titled "selected poems" often includes a small but not definitive selection of poems by a poet or editor drawn from several of the poet's collections. A poetry anthology differs in concept because it draws together works from multiple poets chosen by the anthology's editor.

Mary von Schrader Jarrell

Mary von Schrader Jarrell (May 2, 1914 – July 30, 2007) was a patron of the arts and memoirist. She was the widow of Randall Jarrell and worked consistently to memorialize his impact not only on herself but on the very world of American Poetry.

Pictures from an Institution

Pictures from an Institution is a 1954 novel by American poet Randall Jarrell. It is an academic satire, focusing on the oddities of academic life, in particular the interpersonal relationships among the characters and their private lives. The nameless narrator, a Jarrell-like figure who teaches at a women's college called Benton, makes humorous observations about his students and, especially, his fellow academics, in particular the offensively tactless novelist Gertrude, modeled on Mary McCarthy.

Some believe Benton was modeled after Sarah Lawrence College, where Jarrell taught. However, in an interview with the New York Times, Jarrell stated that "Benton is supposed to be just a type ... I've taken things from real places, but mostly have made them up."

Poems (Auden)

Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself. Consequently, his first book was called simply Poems when it was printed by his friend and fellow poet Stephen Spender in 1928; he used the same title for the very different book published by Faber & Faber in 1930 (second edition 1933), and by Random House in 1934 (which also included The Orators and The Dance of Death).

The privately printed 1928 edition of Poems was produced in an edition of "about 45 copies" as its limitation page obscurely states. It is one of the great rarities of twentieth century literature.

The 1930 commercially published edition of Poems appeared from Faber and Faber in 1930, having been accepted by T. S. Eliot; it was printed in an edition of 1000 copies. Only a small number of the poems in the 1928 version survived into the 1930 volume. Written in a gnomic, seemingly obscure style, the poems and the play included with them, Paid on Both Sides, were extraordinarily influential. The compression of their style, their presentation of a personality "frustrate and vexed" that could be seen as a metaphor for the zeitgeist of a country—plainly England, struck a wholly new, modernist note. Not allusive like Eliot's The Waste Land (1922), the numbered poems in the volume as well as the play were as difficult and rich as that work but, unlike it, seemed to come from a person speaking in a private but significant code. This impression derives from the density of rhetorical device, but some of it also comes from the author's stoic, detached attitude toward his own intense emotional life. Some of these mannerisms were copied in the work of Spender and C. Day-Lewis. For this reason critics dubbed these contemporary writers, who also saw England in parlous condition, as "the Auden generation."

In 1933, when Poems was reprinted, Auden replaced seven of the poems in the 1930 edition with poems that he had written during the year 1930 after completing the 1930 version of the book. Auden revised or dropped many of the poems in the 1933 edition for the collections and selections that he prepared in the 1940s and afterwards.

The 1934 edition published by Random House was Auden's first published book in the United States. The publisher included all three of the books that Auden had published in the UK in this volume.

For a few readers and critics, e. g., Randall Jarrell, the 1930 and 1933 versions remain Auden's greatest achievement.

Robert Giroux

Robert Giroux (April 8, 1914 – September 5, 2008) was an American book editor and publisher. Starting his editing career with Harcourt, Brace & Co., he was hired away to work for Roger W. Straus, Jr. at Farrar & Straus in 1955, where he became a partner and, eventually, its chairman. The firm was henceforth known as Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where he was known by his nickname, "Bob".In his career stretching over five decades, he edited some of the most important voices of the 20th century, including T.S. Eliot, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Merton, and published the first books of Jack Kerouac, Flannery O'Connor, Jean Stafford, Bernard Malamud, William Gaddis, Susan Sontag, Larry Woiwode and Randall Jarrell and edited no fewer than seven Nobel laureates: Eliot, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Derek Walcott, Nadine Gordimer, Seamus Heaney, William Golding and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In a 1980 profile in the New York Times Book Review, poet Donald Hall wrote, "He is the only living editor whose name is bracketed with that of Maxwell Perkins," the editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Stephanie Burt

Stephanie Burt is a literary critic, poet, professor at Harvard University and transgender activist. The New York Times has called her "one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation." Burt grew up around Washington, D.C. She has published four collections of poetry and a large amount of literary criticism and research. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and The Boston Review.

The Animal Family

The Animal Family is a 1965 children's novel by American poet and critic Randall Jarrell and illustrated by noted children's book illustrator Maurice Sendak. It is a 1966 Newbery Honor book and has a significant following among adult readers.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft.

Jarrell, who served in the Army Air Forces, provided the following explanatory note:

A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.

Reviewer Leven M. Dawson says that "The theme of Randall Jarrell's 'The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner' is that institutionalized violence, or war, creates moral paradox, a condition in which acts repugnant to human nature become appropriate." Most commentators agree, calling the poem a condemnation of the dehumanizing powers of "the State", which are most graphically exhibited by the violence of war.Due partly to its short length, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" poem has been widely anthologized. In fact, Jarrell came to fear that his reputation would come to rest on it alone.The poem inspired the play, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Anna Moench, which premiered in New York City at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2008 and was extended to play at The Space in Long Island City. A nod to the poem can also be found in John Irving's 1978 novel The World According to Garp, in which the protagonist's father died from a "rather careless lobotomy" by enemy gunfire while serving as a ball-turret gunner in World War II.

The Man Who Loved Children

The Man Who Loved Children is a 1940 novel by Australian writer Christina Stead. It was not until a reissue edition in 1965, with an introduction by poet Randall Jarrell, that it found widespread critical acclaim and popularity. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The novel has been championed by novelists Robert Stone, Jonathan Franzen and Angela Carter. Carter believed Stead's other novels Cotters England; A Little Tea, A Little Chat; and For Love Alone to be as good, if not better than The Man Who Loved Children.

The Wounded Surgeon

The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets is a book by Adam Kirsch, published in 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (ISBN 978-0393051971). The book considers in turn the work of six poets whose work has often been labelled 'confessional': Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz and Sylvia Plath. Kirsch has set out to write "a brief biography of their poetry", and attempts to demonstrate that the metaphor of confession has led to a misunderstanding of their work, in particular by doing a disservice to the technique and craft that the writers brought to bear to fashion works of art.


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