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About this poet

Born in New York City on March 1, 1921, Richard Wilbur studied at Amherst College before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He later attended Harvard University.

His first book of poems, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems (Reynal & Hitchcock) was published in 1947. Since then, he has published several books of poems, including Anterooms: New Poems and Translations (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010); Collected Poems, 1943-2004 (Harvest Books, 2004); Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000); New and Collected Poems (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Mind-Reader: New Poems (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976); Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969); Advice to a Prophet and Other Poems (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961); Things of This World (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1956), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; and Ceremony and Other Poems (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1950).

Wilbur has also published numerous translations of French plays—specifically those of the 17th century French dramatists Molière and Jean Racine—as well as poetry by Valéry, Villon, Baudelaire, Akhmatova, Brodsky, and others. Wilbur is also the author of several books for children and a few collections of prose pieces, and has edited such books as Poems of Shakespeare (1966) and The Complete Poems of Poe (1959).

About Wilbur's poems, one reviewer for The Washington Post said, "Throughout his career Wilbur has shown, within the compass of his classicism, enviable variety. His poems describe fountains and fire trucks, grasshoppers and toads, European cities and country pleasures. All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection."

Among his honors are the Wallace Stevens Award, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Frost Medal, the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two Bollingen Prizes, the T. S. Eliot Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Ford Foundation Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Memorial Award, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, the National Arts Club medal of honor for literature, two PEN translation awards, the Prix de Rome Fellowship, and the Shelley Memorial Award. He was elected a chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques and is a former Poet Laureate of the United States.

Wilbur served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1961 to 1995. He currently lives in Cummington, Massachusetts.


Selected Bibliography 

Poems

Anterooms: New Poems and Translations (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)
Collected Poems, 1943-2004 (Harvest Books, 2004)
Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000)
New and Collected Poems (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988)
The Mind-Reader: New Poems (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976)
Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969)
Advice to a Prophet and Other Poems (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961)
Things of This World (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1956)
Ceremony and Other Poems (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1950)
The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems (Reynal & Hitchcock,1947)

 

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From the Image Archive

 

The House

Richard Wilbur, 1921
Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.

What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow's walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.

Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night, my love, I put to sea.

From Anterooms: New Poems and Translation by Richard Wilbur. Copyright © 2010 by Richard Wilbur. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

From Anterooms: New Poems and Translation by Richard Wilbur. Copyright © 2010 by Richard Wilbur. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur

Born in New York City in 1921, Richard Wilbur is the author of numerous books of poetry and the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award

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poem
At the end a
"The Prisoner of Zenda,"
The King being out of danger,
Stewart Granger
(As Rudolph Rassendyll)
Must swallow a bitter pill
By renouncing his co-star,
Deborah Kerr.

It would be poor behavia
In him and in Princess Flavia
Were they to put their own
Concerns before those of the Throne.
Deborah Kerr must