Bibliography of American Poetry Told Through the Pulitzer Prize
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good record

Heart's Needle

PS 3537 N32 H4

W.D. Snodgrass

Much iambic sing-song stuff-- not too appealing from a "real language" point of view. The book itself is beautiful. The poems are accomplished and neat but none of them grab too much. "The Heart's Needle" is a ten-part poem at the end of the book which seems to document some sort of separation from his daughter. This confessional stuff, along with Robert Lowell a few years earlier, signifies a tilt toward the self-reflexive in the Pulitzer.


the spice of life

Times Three: Selected Verse From Three Decades

PS 3525 A23293 T 5

Phyllis McGinley

Poetry in the voice of a suburban mother. Valuable as a record of perspective through three heavy decades in America. "Chant of the Optimistic Butcher" has the title character extolling the virtues of "variety meats" during wartime rationing ("I've tongue (a sliver),/ I've shank and shins,/ I've liver aquiver/ with Vitamins"). The introduction is by W.H. Auden-- who definitely wrote the most introductions to Pulitzer-winners.


back to school


PS 3507 U379P6 1961

Alan Dugan

I read the first edition of this volume 57 of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, "which is designed to provide a medium for the first volumes of promising poets. Open to men and women under forty who have not previously had a book of verse published. " It is still going on now; here's the rules. Nice book.


legendary bookmakers

Pictures From Breughel

PS 3545 I544 P45

William Carlos Williams

Published by New Directions, which is now a Norton compnay. New Directions was a pivotal publisher during this time period. They made a lot of Pulitzer-winners and there is not a ringer in the bunch. This book is incredible. Finally gets some recognition 40 years after he published "The Red Wheelbarrow."This one is the Pulitzer make-up exam.


olivetti typwriter showroom poems

At the End of the Open Road

PS 3537 I75A9

Louis Simpson

I read the first Edition. Very Rod McKuen cover and in this case the cover provides good basis for judgment on the entire book. Lame attempts to decry bourgeois values. An example is the entire text of "In The Suburbs": There's no way out./ you were born to waste your life/ you were born to this middleclass life." The best book of poetry published in this year was Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara, one of the greatest poets of the American language. O'Hara was also great because he knew what art was and he hung out with the Abstrat Expressionists. Never trust a poet who hangs out with other poets.



77 Dream Songs

PS 3503 E744 S4

John Berryman

One-page poems numbered 1-77, #66 being dedicated to Mark Van Doren, making Van Doren a rival to Auden for Most Mentions in a Pulitzer Winner. From #37: "His malice was a pimple down his good/ big face, with its sly eyes. I must be sorry/ Mr. Frost has left"


local economy

Selected Poems

Richard Eberhart

Another by New Directions. This guy seems to often come upon dead animals on nature walks. From "The Groundhog": In June, amid the golden fields,/ I saw a groundhog lying dead." Good line from "On A Squirrel": "It is what man does not know of God/ composes the visible poem of the world.


life opened inside me

Live or Die

PS 3537 E915 L5 1967

Anne Sexton

This book blew me away. The best non-collected poems Pulitzer winner. The last poem in the book of this 1974 suicide is called "Live" and is about the birth of puppies by the family dog. I used these lines from this poem as an epigraph to my 2nd book, Memo To All Employees. "Today life opened inside me like an egg/ and there inside/ after considerable digging/ I found the answer./ What a bargain!" Sexton wrote it exactly one year before my birth, on "February the Last, 1966."



The Hard Hours

PS 3538 E28 H3

Anthony Hecht

Have not found this book as we go to press.



Of Being Numerous

PS 3529 P54 03

George Oppen

New Directions published this book, too. Can't find it, but I will make sure I do.