Born April 5, 1904, in Austin, Minnesota, Richard Eberhart grew up on a forty-acre estate called Burr Oaks. Often these surroundings of his youth later became the subject of his poetry; his sixth volume of poetry is entitled Burr Oaks (Chatto & Windus, 1947). Upon graduation from high school in 1921, Eberhart entered the University of Minnesota. Less than a year later his mother died of cancer and Eberhart began to write poetry. When his father's business failed shortly after his mother's death, Eberhart transferred to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
After graduation he worked a variety of jobs, including a position as a deck hand on a steam ship. He made his way to England where he entered St. John's College of Cambridge, earning a second degree. His first book of poetry, A Bravery of Earth (J. Cape & H. Smith), was published in 1931. From 1931-32 he worked as the private tutor for the son of King Prajadhipok of what was then Siam. He returned to the United States in 1932 and entered Harvard University as a graduate student.
In 1941, Eberhart, who had been teaching English at the St. Mark's School, married Helen Butcher; they had two children. He later served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II and then worked for his wife's family at the Butcher Polish Company for six years. From the 1950s on, however, he devoted his time to writing poetry and teaching at the college level.
Eberhart taught at University of Washington, Brown University, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, Columbia University, University of Cincinnati, Wheaton College, Princeton University and Dartmouth College.
Eberhart helped found the Poets' Theatre, Inc., in 1950 and acted as the group's first president. He was appointed to the Advisory Commission on the Arts for the National Cultural Center by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959 and held the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress from 1959-61. His Selected Poems, 1930-1965 (New Directions, 1965) won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1966. He received a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets in 1969. He served as New Hampshire's poet laureate from 1979-84 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1982. Eberhart's awards also include the Shelley Memorial Award, the Bollingen Prize, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Award, the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, and the National Book Award.
Richard Eberhart died at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, on June 9, 2005, at the age of 101.