Richard Wilbur

born on 1/3/1921 in New York City, NY, United States

Richard Wilbur

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Richard Wilbur
Born: {{{birth_date}}}
Occupation(s): Poet
Nationality: American

Richard Purdy Wilbur (born 1 March 1921) is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the sixth 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]


Early years

Wilbur was born in New York, New York and grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey[2]. He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and then served in the United States Army from 1943 until 1945 during World War II. After the Army and graduate school at Harvard University, Wilbur taught at 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 Wesleyan University Press.[3][4] He received two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and is currently teaching at Amherst College.[5] He married Charlotte Hayes Ward in 1942 after his graduation from Amherst; she was a student at nearby Smith College.


When only 8 years old, Wilbur published his first poem in John Martin's Magazine. 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.)

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."

His honors include the 1983 Drama Desk Special Award for his translation of The Misanthrope, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award, both in 1957, the Edna St Vincent Millay award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Chevalier, Ordre National des Palmes Academiques. 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 1989 he won a second Pulitzer, this one for his New and Collected Poems. In 2006, Wilbur won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He has also produced several unpublished works such as "The Wing" and "To Beatrice". On October 14, 1994, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.



  • The Beautiful Changes, and Other Poems (1947)
  • Ceremony, and Other Poems (1950)
  • A Bestiary (1955)
  • Things of This World (Harcourt, 1956) Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 1957 National Book Award 1957
  • Advice to a Prophet, and Other Poems (1961)
  • Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations (1969)
  • The Mind-Reader: New Poems (1976)
  • New and Collected Poems (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988) Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 1989
  • Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (2000)
  • Collected Poems, 1943-2004 (2004)
  • The Boy at the Window


  • Responses: Prose Pieces, 1953-1976 (Harcourt, 1976)
  • The Catbird's Song: Prose Pieces, 1963-1995 (Harcourt, 1997)


  • The White House - Office of the Press Secretary


  1. Poet Laureate Timeline: 1981-1990. Library of Congress (2008). Retrieved on 2009-01-01.
  2. "Celebrate the life and work of poet Richard Wilbur", The Berkshire Eagle, June 24, 2005. "Wilbur spent His childhood in North Caldwell, NJ the son of a painter..."

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Richard Wilbur

  • The World is Fundamentally a Great Wonder: Richard Wilbur in conversation with Arlo Haskell, 2009
  • Audio recording of Richard Wilbur reading from his work at the 2010 Key West Literary Seminar (1:06:52)
  • Recording of Wilbur reading at the Key West Literary Seminar in 2003 (1:03:12)
  • Recording of Wilbur's reading, "a tribute to Elizabeth Bishop," at the 1993 Key West Literary Seminar (18:22)
  • Ernest Hilbert reviews Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems for the New York Sun. [1]
  • Richard Wilbur video at the Peoples Archive
  • Online Wilbur poems
  • Essays on a Wilbur poem
  • Ibiblio Wilbur page
  • The Paris Review Interview
This page was last modified 14.05.2010 12:43:03

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