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Richard Wilbur

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Title: Richard Wilbur  
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Subject: Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Robert Penn Warren, List of Amherst College people, Adam Kirsch, Bollingen Prize
Collection: 1921 Births, American Male Poets, American Poets, American Poets Laureate, American Theater Hall of Fame Inductees, Amherst College Alumni, Bollingen Prize Recipients, Chevalier of the Ordre Des Palmes Académiques, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Formalist Poets, Guggenheim Fellows, Harvard University Alumni, Living People, Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Book Award Winners, People from North Caldwell, New Jersey, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winners, Rome Prize Winners, Smith College Faculty, United States National Medal of Arts Recipients, Wesleyan University Faculty
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Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur
Born Richard Purdy Wilbur
(1921-03-01) March 1, 1921
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Poet
Alma mater Amherst College (1942)
Harvard University (1947)
Genre Poetry, Children's books
Literary movement Formalism
Notable works Things of This World
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1957, 1989)
Robert Frost Medal (1996)
Spouse Mary Charlotte Hayes Ward 1930–2007 (her death)
Children Ellen D. Wilbur 1943-,
Christopher H. Wilbur 1948-,
Nathan L. Wilbur 1951-,
Aaron H. Wilbur 1958-

Richard Purdy Wilbur (born March 1, 1921) is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.[1]


  • Biography 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Career 1.2
  • Bibliography 2
    • Poetry collections 2.1
    • Selected poems available online 2.2
    • Prose collections 2.3
    • Translated plays from other authors 2.4
      • Translated from Molière 2.4.1
      • From Jean Racine 2.4.2
      • From Pierre Corneille 2.4.3
  • Sources 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Early years

Wilbur was born in New York City and grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey.[2] He graduated from Montclair High School in 1938, having worked on the school newspaper as a student there.[3] He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and then served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. After the Army and graduate school at Harvard University, Wilbur taught at Wellesley College, then Wesleyan University for two decades and at Smith College for another decade. At Wesleyan, he was instrumental in founding the award-winning poetry series of the University Press.[4][5] He received two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and, as of 2009, teaches at Amherst College.[6] He is also on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College.[7]


When only 8 years old, Wilbur published his first poem in John Martin's Magazine.[8] His first book, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems, appeared in 1947. Since then he has published several volumes of poetry, including New and Collected Poems (Faber, 1989). Wilbur is also a translator, specializing in the 17th century French comedies of Molière and the dramas of Jean Racine. His translation of Tartuffe has become the standard English version of the play, and has been presented on television twice (a 1978 production is available on DVD.) In addition to publishing poetry and translations, he has also published several children's books including Opposites, More Opposites, and The Disappearing Alphabet.

Continuing the tradition of Robert Frost and W. H. Auden, Wilbur's poetry finds illumination in everyday experiences. Less well-known is Wilbur's foray into lyric writing. He provided lyrics to several songs in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical, Candide, including the famous "Glitter and Be Gay" and "Make Our Garden Grow." He has also produced several unpublished works including "The Wing" and "To Beatrice".

His honors include the 1983 Drama Desk Special Award and the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of The Misanthrope, both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for Things of This World (1956),[9] the Edna St Vincent Millay award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Chevalier, Ordre des Palmes Académiques. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959.[10] In 1987 Wilbur became the second poet, after Robert Penn Warren, to be named U.S. Poet Laureate after the position's title was changed from Poetry Consultant. In 1988, he won the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry and then in 1989 he won a second Pulitzer, this one for his New and Collected Poems. On October 14, 1994, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. He also received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 1994. In 2003, Wilbur was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[11] In 2006, Wilbur won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 2010 he won the National Translation Award for the translation of The Theatre of Illusion by Pierre Corneille. In 2012, Yale conferred an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, on Wilbur.


Poetry collections

  • 1947: The Beautiful Changes, and Other Poems
  • 1950: Ceremony, and Other Poems
  • 1955: A Bestiary
  • 1956: Things of This World - won Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and National Book Award, both in 1957
  • 1961: Advice to a Prophet, and Other Poems
  • 1969: Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations
  • 1976: The Mind-Reader: New Poems
  • 1988: New and Collected Poems - won Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1989
  • 2000: Mayflies: New Poems and Translations
  • 2004: Collected Poems, 1943–2004
  • 2010: Anterooms
  • 2012: The Nutcracker

Selected poems available online

  • "Sugar Maples, January".  

Prose collections

  • 1976: Responses: Prose Pieces, 1953–1976
  • 1997: The Catbird's Song: Prose Pieces, 1963–1995

Translated plays from other authors

Translated from Molière

  • The Misanthrope (1955/1666)[12]
  • Tartuffe (1963/1669)[13]
  • The School for Wives (1971/1662)[14]
  • The Learned Ladies (1978/1672)[15]
  • School for Husbands (1992/1661)[16]
  • The Imaginary Cuckold, or Sganarelle (1993/1660)[17]
  • Amphitryon (1995/1668)[18]
  • The Bungler (2000/1655)[19]
  • Don Juan (2001/1665)[20]
  • Lovers' Quarrels (2009/1656)[21]

From Jean Racine

  • Andromache (1982/1667)[22]
  • Phaedra (1986/1677)[23]
  • The Suitors (2001/1668)[24]

From Pierre Corneille

  • The Theatre of Illusion (2007/1636)[25]
  • Le Cid (2009/1636)[26]
  • The Liar (2009/1643)[27]


  • President and first Lady honor Artists and Scholars, Clinton, The White House – Office of the Press Secretary, 1994-10-13 .


  1. ^ "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1981–1990". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. ^ Gillett, Michelle (June 24, 2005), "Celebrate the life and work of poet Richard Wilbur",  .
  3. ^ Richard (Purdy) Wilbur, from the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Accessed January 1, 2012. "Wilbur showed an early interest in writing, which he has attributed to his mother's family because her father was an editor of the Baltimore Sun and her grandfather was an editor and a publisher of small papers aligned with the Democratic party. At Montclair High School, from which he graduated in 1938, Wilbur wrote editorials for the school newspaper."
  4. ^ Wilbur biography, University of Illinois .
  5. ^ Gordon, Jane (October 16, 2005), "The University of Verse", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-07-18 .
  6. ^ "Wilbur", Faculty staff, Amherst College .
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Richard Wilbur, The Art of Poetry No. 22",  .
  9. ^ "National Book Awards – 1957". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
    (With acceptance speech by Wilbur and essay by Patrick Rosal from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" ( 
  11. ^ "2004 Inductees of Theatre Hall of Fame Announced". 
  12. ^ The Misanthrope, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  13. ^ Tartuffe, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  14. ^ The School for Wives, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  15. ^ The Learned Ladies, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  16. ^ School for Husbands, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  17. ^ The Imaginary Cuckold, or Sganarelle, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  18. ^ Amphitryon, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  19. ^ The Bungler, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  20. ^ Don Juan, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  21. ^ Lovers' Quarrels, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  22. ^ Andromache, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  23. ^ Phædra, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  24. ^ The Suitors, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  25. ^ Corneille, Pierre (April 2, 2007), The Theatre of Illusion, Mariner books,  .
  26. ^ Le Cid, Dramatists Play Service,  .
  27. ^ The Liar, Dramatists Play Service,  .

External links

  • "The World is Fundamentally a Great Wonder": Richard Wilbur in conversation with Arlo Haskell, October 21, 2009. Littoral.
  • Readings by Wilbur at the Key West Literary Seminar: 1993, 2003, 2010
  • New York Sun for the Collected PoemsErnest Hilbert reviews Richard Wilbur's
  • Essays on a Wilbur poem
  • Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, Peter A. Stitt (Winter 1977). "Richard Wilbur, The Art of Poetry No. 22". The Paris Review. 
  • Settings of Richard Wilbur's poetry in the Choral Public Domain Library
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