Bibliography of American Poetry Told Through the Pulitzer Prize
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chicago poet

Annie Allen

PS 3503 R7244 A7

Gwendolyn Brooks

The copy I read is in the Special Collections Section on the 9th floor of the Harold Washington. It is a presentation copy signed over to 1949 winner Peter Viereck, who, she writes, is "a good poet." (Doesn't hurt to know someone). The entire book is set in bold type. Brooks is the former Poet Laureate of Illinois spent many years as a living legend here in Chicago and did a world of things to encourage and help young poets. She also bailed out of big-time publishers and went with legendary Third World Press in Chicago.


lived a towering poet life

Complete Poems

PS 3537A618 1950

Carl Sandburg

Chicago poets win two years in a row. Worker poetry like "Bricklayer Love." An excellent book from another winner who has the performer mentality and writes in common language. The Pulitzer committee continues to be on an unusual roll of awarding great books. Contains introduction by 1953's Archibald MacLeish, continuing a strong tradition of loggrolling in the world of Pulitzer. On another Sandburg note, the book "Billy Sunday and Other Poems," published by Harcourt Brace, has poems never published because they were too harsh and/or racy for their time. Those poems are not found in this "Complete" volume, either.


thanks for trying, marianne

Collected Poems

Marianne Moore

Good book, good poet. However, this book does not have Letters From and To The Ford Motor Company, which is a seminal text illustrating the role of the modem poet in society. The VP of advertising @ Ford wrote. to her asking her to help name "an exciting new car." They go back and forth with possibilities ("UTOPIAN TURTLETOP?"). Moore expends great energy trying to help them, and the last letter from GM says, "We decided to name it the Edsel, " after the owner's son. Goes to show you that big business and other creeps may put their arms around the poet for a while, but when it comes down to it wealth flows from father to son and the poets can go to hell. I got the GM book from the University of Illinois at Chicago Main Library. Very rare. Very little mention of it anywhere on the internet.


family business

Collected Poems

PS 3525 A27 Al 7

Archibald MacLeish

Another MacLeish. One poem is dedicated to 1940's Mark Van Doren. MacLeish is something of an agitating politico, denouncing corporations and the Mellons and Rockefellers and Fords. Rabble-rouser. Nice to see. I really cannot figure out one 1936 poem called "The German Girls! The German Girls!" MacLeish, is a good example of a tradition in American poetry, and that is the poet with a great day job. Frank O'Hara, curator for the Museum of Modern Art, and Wallace Stevens, insurance executive, are other examples.


why is this man smiling?

The Waking

Theodore Roethke

Compressed, lyrical poems. Collected from the years 1933-53. I read a first edition. Interesting book because it shows the progression from the still-prominent rhyme schemes of the 1930s to the movement toward free verse. Most of his great poems are in here, including "My Papas Waltz" and "Elegy For Jane."


takes one to know one

Collected Poems

Wallace Stevens

The mammoth, unimpeachable collection from one of the century's greatest poets and insurance executives. Read it and weep. Never boring. He was conscious of the poem read aloud, dragging the readers' lips across rhythms, vowels and consonants that made music as they were read in the mind's eye. He once said, "It gives a man character as a poet to have this daily contact with a job".


intense wordsmith

Poems, North and South

PS 3503 I785 P6

Elizabeth Bishop

Last stanza from the poem "Sleeping on the Ceiling": We must go under the wall-paper / to meet the insect-gladiator, / to battle with a net and trident, land leave the fountain and the square. / But oh, that we could live up there." A killer poet, flat-out great. Here's a very detailed essay about her. She was an extreme describer of the physical world, a very deliberate writer. Her collected works, after writing for 50 years, is 140 poems. Quality, not quantity.


poems are intellectual property

Things of this World

PS 3545 I32165 T5

Richard Wilbur

An inventive poet who tried new things, not content to stay within the bounds of traditional poetic forms. One poem is called Speech in Favor of the Repeal of the McCaffan Act, which excluded illiterate foreigners from immigration to the U.S. Uses the method of creating new poems in the style of other poets. An example is Paul Valery: HELEN."


good poets get libraries named after them

Promises: Poems 1954-56

PS 3545 A 748 P7

Robert Penn Warren

Another exception to the three-name rule of poetic exclusion, Warren is one of the best of the best. Probably better known for his fiction, including All the King's Men, which also won the Pulitzer for fiction. Two-time winner.


huge resource

Selected Poems 1928-1958

Stanley Kunitz

A wholly undistinguished volume. Kunitz is a co-founder of Poets House, 72 Spring Street, NYC, 10012. They publish "Directory of American Poetry Books," an incredible resource. They have a collection of over 30,000 poetry books, and you can visit them all. Each year they have an exhibit of quite simply every poetry book published in that particular year. Just send them your book and it's in. God bless Stanley Kunitz!