Bibliography of American Poetry Told Through the Pulitzer Prize
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Collected Poems

PS 3543 A557 Al 7 1939

Mark Van Doren

Poems from the father of the Charles Van Doren. He won all the money in the game show cheating scheme that was dramatized in Robert Redford's movie "Quiz Show". The poems are mainly a bunch of Protestant crapola.


Co-optation by the government of a good idea

Sunderland Capture

PS 3503 A196 S8 1940

Leonard Bacon

Worker poems. The poem "An Old Metaphor in a New Place" agitates for better working conditions and more environmental awareness 30 years before Earth Day: Dust to dust! / But it is very too-much to thick in that factory./ Also it is hard and crystalline and refractory. / And I think it must / be discussed / with men's and angels' tongues, / Because it affects the lungs." Good stuff.


Communication to publisher

The Dust Which is God

PS 3503 E533 D8 1941

William Rose Benet

Speaking of dust. The three-name rule is broken. Excellent book.This book is one reason why the 40s have the best class of books in the history of the Pulitzer. Strident, urban, populist verses that damn the bourgeois. Lots of machine-gun racket and realism. Published by Dodd, Mead and Co., NY


Great mayor

A Witness Tree

PS 3511 R94 W5 1942a

Robert Frost

There is a signed and numbered copy (number 554 of 735) of this book in the Special Collections section of the Harold Washington Library Center. If you are a poet and touching it and reading it doesn't give you a rise then get out of poetry and stay out. It was transferred from the West Addison Branch Library in 1976.


Cold in the heartland

Western Star

PS 3503 E5325 W4

Steven Vincent Benet

Saw the first edition of this Manifest Destiny apologist book. Blah blah blah the heroic fight West blah blah blah. This is basically the only lousy winner between 1940 and 1954-- nice run. The author died writing this book, and no one deserves that. The weird thing is that one of the central tenets of great performance poetry is that it GO somewhere, take the listener/ reader with the poem, and you'd think that this subject matter would be good for that.


former editor of poetry magazine

V-Letter and Other Poems

PS 3537 H27 V18

Karl Shapiro

Literally a "Victory Letter" upon returning home from war, where the poet was stationed in New Guinea and Australia. Bears this entry on the copyright page: "This Book Has Been Produced in Full Compliance With the Government's Regulations for Conserving Paper and Other Essential Materials." Former editor of Poetry magazine, which just got $100 million or so in drug money. I desparately want to help them spend it.


oh, donna

No prize awarded for this year.


learned yet exciting

Lord's Weary Castle

PS 3523 089A6

Robert Lowell

Religio-historical stuff. Wild turns of phrases. Kind of a throwback. Refreshing stanzas which drag you around the page while still keeping you in a traditional rhyme scheme. These poems are super-tight, they spin like a top. Member of a prominent New England literary family. I seriously thought this guy would suck. For some unfair reason I had the idea he was a sissy. I was wrong. First copyright page barring reproduction "by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system.", which means he wouldn't be too psyched about Audiogalaxy.


odd fellow photog w/ or man Auden

The Age of Anxiety

PR 6011 U4 A65

W.H. Auden

The only verse drama in the bunch. This was another one of the biggest surprises for me because I thought he was a big fou-fou-type poet but this guy intense. A tired, scarred set of characters (Emble, Quant, Rosetta and Malin) are united by chance in a bar at the end of the war and communicate telepathically. The work hinges on the fresh gargantuan sadness of the war. Prescient about the coming expansion and wealth. Leonard Bernstein wrote a symphony cycle out of it. As we will soon see, Auden's got the magic Pulitzer touch.



Terror and Decorum

PS 3543 I325 T4

Peter Viereck

Another work that stands on the edge of prosperity. His poem "Kilroy Was Here" is the definitive poem of that war phrase. Thematically centered on post-war sprawl and the conflict between the cities and the suburbs. The poems have great titles. Contains a highly detailed two-page acknowledgements section in which we discover them poem "Convoy from New York" was first published under the title "By V-Mail to Ellen". The title of the book reminded me of the (warning: link contains extremely graphic and distrubing material) Bud Dwyer video, wherein the Treasurer of the state of Pennsylvania killed himself at a press conference and a guy valiantly seps in and says, "please, can we have some decorum here".