Richard Wilbur: Poems


Richard Purdy Wilbur (March 1, 1921 – October 14, 2017) was an American poet and literary translator. One of the foremost poets of his generation, Wilbur’s work, composed primarily in traditional forms, was marked by its wit, charm, and gentlemanly elegance. In 1987 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice, in 1957 and again in 1989.[2]

Early years


Wilbur was born in New York City March 1, 1921, and grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey.[3] In 1938 he graduated from Montclair High School where he worked on the school newspaper.[4] He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. He attended graduate school at Harvard University. Wilbur taught at Wellesley College, then Wesleyan University for two decades and at Smith College for another decade. At Wesleyan, he was instrumental in founding the award-winning poetry series of the University Press.[5][6] He received two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and taught at Amherst College as late as 2009.[7] He was also on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College.[8]

Literary career

When only 8 years old, Wilbur published his first poem in John Martin's Magazine.[9] His first book, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems, appeared in 1947. Henceforth he published several volumes of poetry, including New and Collected Poems (Faber, 1989). Wilbur was also a translator, specializing in the 17th century French comedies of Molière and the dramas of Jean Racine. His translation of Tartuffe has become the standard English version of the play, and has been presented on television twice (a 1978 production is available on DVD.) In addition to publishing poetry and translations, he also published several children's books including Opposites, More Opposites, and The Disappearing Alphabet.

Continuing the tradition of Robert Frost and W. H. Auden, Wilbur's poetry finds illumination in everyday experiences. Less well-known is Wilbur's foray into lyric writing. He provided lyrics to several songs in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical, Candide, including the famous "Glitter and Be Gay" and "Make Our Garden Grow." He also produced several unpublished works including "The Wing" and "To Beatrice".

His honors included the 1983 Drama Desk Special Award and the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of The Misanthrope, both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for Things of This World (1956),[10] the Edna St Vincent Millay award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Chevalier, Ordre des Palmes Académiques. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959.[11] In 1987 Wilbur became the second poet, after Robert Penn Warren, to be named U.S. Poet Laureate after the position's title was changed from Poetry Consultant. In 1988, he won the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry and then in 1989 he won a second Pulitzer, this one for his New and Collected Poems. On October 14, 1994, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. He also received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 1994. In 2003, Wilbur was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[12] In 2006, Wilbur won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 2010 he won the National Translation Award for the translation of The Theatre of Illusion by Pierre Corneille. In 2012, Yale conferred an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, on Wilbur.

Wilbur died on October 14, 2017, at a nursing home in Belmont, Massachusetts from natural causes aged 96.[3][13]

Awards and honors

During his lifetime, Wilbur received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts (1952, 1963)[14]
  • Poetry Society of America Millay Award (1957)[15]
  • National Book Award for Poetry (1957) for Things of This World[16]
  • Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1957, 1989) for Things of This World, New and Collected Poems[17]
  • Bollingen Prize for Poetry (1971)[18]
  • Shelley Memorial Award (1973) [19]
  • New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical (1973–1974) for Candide[20]
  • Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical (1973–1974) for Candide[21]
  • Drama Desk Special Award (1983) for translation of The Misanthrope[22]
  • United States Poet Laureate (1987–1988)[23]
  • Laurence Olivier Award for Musical of the Year (1988) for Candide[24]
  • St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates[25][26]
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Poetry (1991)[27]
  • PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation (1994)[28]
  • Frost Medal (1996)[29]
  • Wallace Stevens Award (2003)[30]
  • Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2006)[31]

Poetry collections

  • 1947: The Beautiful Changes, and Other Poems[32]
  • 1950: Ceremony, and Other Poems[32]
  • 1955: A Bestiary[32]
  • 1956: Things of This World – won Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and National Book Award, both in 1957[33]
  • 1961: Advice to a Prophet, and Other Poems[32]
  • 1969: Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations[33]
  • 1976: The Mind-Reader: New Poems[32]
  • 1988: New and Collected Poems – won Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1989[33]
  • 2000: Mayflies: New Poems and Translations[32]
  • 2004: Collected Poems, 1943–2004[32]
  • 2010: Anterooms[32]

Selected poems available online

  • "Some Words Inside of Words". The Atlantic. June 2004. Retrieved October 21, 2017. 
  • "Sugar Maples, January". The New Yorker. January 16, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 

Prose collections

  • 1976: Responses: Prose Pieces, 1953–1976[32]
  • 1997: The Catbird's Song: Prose Pieces, 1963–1995[32]

Translated plays from other authors

Translated from Molière

  • The Misanthrope (1955/1666)[34]
  • Tartuffe (1963/1669)[35]
  • The School for Wives (1971/1662)[36]
  • The Learned Ladies (1978/1672)[37]
  • The School for Husbands (1992/1661)[38]
  • The Imaginary Cuckold, or Sganarelle (1993/1660)[39]
  • Amphitryon (1995/1668)[40]
  • The Bungler (2000/1655)[41]
  • Don Juan (2001/1665)[42]
  • Lovers' Quarrels (2009/1656)[43]

From Jean Racine

  • Andromache (1982/1667)[44]
  • Phaedra (1986/1677)[45]
  • The Suitors (2001/1668)[46]

From Pierre Corneille

  • The Theatre of Illusion (2007/1636)[47]
  • Le Cid (2009/1636)[48]
  • The Liar (2009/1643)[49]
  • President and first Lady honor Artists and Scholars, Clinton, The White House – Office of the Press Secretary, October 13, 1994 .
  1. ^ Iyengar, Sunil (June 7, 2008), Richard Wilbur: A Conversation, West Chester: Contemporary Poetry Review, Well, I was brought up as an Episcopalian, or Anglican, and was happy with it, and I have been a lay reader in the Episcopal Church, and I still get to church as often as I can from where I live in the sticks .
  2. ^ "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1981–1990". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved January 1, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Richard Wilbur, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Winner, Dies at 96". The New York Times. October 16, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017. 
  4. ^ Richard (Purdy) Wilbur, from the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Accessed January 1, 2012. "Wilbur showed an early interest in writing, which he has attributed to his mother's family because her father was an editor of the Baltimore Sun and her grandfather was an editor and a publisher of small papers aligned with the Democratic party. At Montclair High School, from which he graduated in 1938, Wilbur wrote editorials for the school newspaper."
  5. ^ Wilbur biography, University of Illinois 
  6. ^ Gordon, Jane (October 16, 2005), "The University of Verse", The New York Times, retrieved July 18, 2011 
  7. ^ "Wilbur", Faculty staff, Amherst College .
  8. ^ "About The Common - The Common".
  9. ^ "Richard Wilbur, The Art of Poetry No. 22", The Paris Review, Interviews, Winter 1977, retrieved December 24, 2014 .
  10. ^ "National Book Awards – 1957". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02. (With acceptance speech by Wilbur and essay by Patrick Rosal from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  11. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  12. ^ "2004 Inductees of Theatre Hall of Fame Announced". 
  13. ^ Ferney, Mark (October 15, 2017). "Richard Wilbur, Pulitzer-winning poet, dies at 96". Boston Globe. Retrieved October 15, 2017. 
  14. ^ "All Fellows". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved July 18, 2016. 
  15. ^ "A Century of American Poetry". Poetry Society of America. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  16. ^ "National Book Awards – 1957". National Book Foundation. Retrieved July 18, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Poetry". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved July 18, 2016. 
  18. ^ "The Bollingen Prize for Poetry". Yale University. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Shelley Winners". Poetry Society of America. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Past Awards". New York Drama Critics' Circle. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Awards for 1973–1974". Outer Critics Circle. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Awards". Drama Desk. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  23. ^ Peter Armenti (June 10, 2015). "United States Poets Laureate: A Guide to Online Resources". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Olivier Winners 1988". Olivier Awards. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Saint Louis Literary Award - Saint Louis University".
  26. ^ Saint Louis University Library Associates. "Recipients of the St. Louis Literary Award". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Gold Medal". American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  28. ^ "PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation Winners". PEN America. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Frost Medalists". Poetry Society of America. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Wallace Stevens Award". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Richard Wilbur". Poetry Foundation. October 18, 2017. 
  33. ^ a b c Carlson, Michael (October 17, 2017). "Richard Wilbur obituary" – via 
  34. ^ The Misanthrope, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1389-5 .
  35. ^ Tartuffe, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1111-2 .
  36. ^ The School for Wives, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-0999-7 .
  37. ^ The Learned Ladies, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-0648-4 .
  38. ^ School for Husbands, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-0998-0 .
  39. ^ The Imaginary Cuckold, or Sganarelle, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1331-4 .
  40. ^ Amphitryon, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1439-7 .
  41. ^ The Bungler, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1747-3 .
  42. ^ Don Juan, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1657-5 .
  43. ^ Lovers' Quarrels, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-2159-3 .
  44. ^ Andromache, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-0048-2 .
  45. ^ Phædra, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-0890-7 .
  46. ^ The Suitors, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-1804-3 .
  47. ^ Corneille, Pierre (April 2, 2007), The Theatre of Illusion, Mariner books, ISBN 978-0-15-603231-5 .
  48. ^ Le Cid, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-2501-0 .
  49. ^ The Liar, Dramatists Play Service, ISBN 978-0-8222-2502-7 .
Further reading
  • Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg, 2017, University of Massachusetts Press
  • Richard Wilbur and the Things of This World, a documentary film by Ralph Hammann, 2017, Film Odysseys, Ltd. To be released.
External links
  • Richard Wilbur at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Richard Wilbur at Internet Off-Broadway Database
  • "The World is Fundamentally a Great Wonder": Richard Wilbur in conversation with Arlo Haskell, October 21, 2009. Littoral.
  • Readings by Wilbur at the Key West Literary Seminar: 1993, 2003, 2010
  • Ernest Hilbert reviews Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems for the New York Sun
  • Essays on a Wilbur's "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World"
  • Helen McCloy Ellison; Ellesa Clay High; Peter A. Stitt (Winter 1977). "Richard Wilbur, The Art of Poetry No. 22". The Paris Review
  • Settings of Richard Wilbur's poetry in the Choral Public Domain Library

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