Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life

Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life

by Scott Donaldson
     
 

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At the time of his death in 1935, Edwin Arlington Robinson was regarded as the leading American poet-the equal of Frost and Stevens. In this biography, Scott Donaldson tells the intriguing story of this poet's life, based in large part on a previously unavailable trove of more than 3,000 personal letters, and recounts his profoundly important role in the

Overview

At the time of his death in 1935, Edwin Arlington Robinson was regarded as the leading American poet-the equal of Frost and Stevens. In this biography, Scott Donaldson tells the intriguing story of this poet's life, based in large part on a previously unavailable trove of more than 3,000 personal letters, and recounts his profoundly important role in the development of modern American literature.

Born in 1869, the youngest son of a well-to-do family in Gardiner, Maine, Robinson had two brothers: Dean, a doctor who became a drug addict, and Herman, an alcoholic who squandered the family fortune. Robinson never married, but he fell in love as many as three times, most lastingly with the woman who would become his brother Herman's wife. Despite his shyness, Robinson made many close friends, and he repeatedly went out of his way to give them his support and encouragement.

Still, it was always poetry that drove him. He regarded writing poems as nothing less than his calling-what he had been put on earth to do. Struggling through long years of poverty and neglect, he achieved a voice and a subject matter all his own. He was the first to write about ordinary people and events-an honest butcher consumed by grief, a miser with "eyes like little dollars in the dark," ancient clerks in a dry goods store measuring out their days like bolts of cloth. In simple yet powerful rhetoric, he explored the interior worlds of the people around him.

Robinson was a major poet and a pivotal figure in the course of modern American literature, yet over the years his reputation has declined. With his biography, Donaldson returns this remarkable talent to the pantheon of great American poets and sheds new light on his enduring legacy.

Editorial Reviews

Down East: The Magazine of Maine

A richly documented book that eclipses earlier biographies.

— Bruce Allen

Wall Street Journal
[A] sterling biography.

— David Yezzi

Minneapolis Star Tribune
[A] readable and well-researched book.

— Rebecca Porte

Virginia Gazette
Unquestionably, Robinson's life and poetry are worthy of celebration. A Poet's Life offers the reader a chance to participate in that celebration.

— John Shulson

The New York Sun
Mr. Donaldson's close readings of the poems are masterful and edifying.

— Ernest Hilbert

Times Literary Supplement
[Donaldson's] thorough documentation and responsiveness to Robinson's poetry displaces previous accounts of this fascinating, enigmatic character.

— William H. Pritchard

The New Criterion
A smoothly readable, profoundly well-documented biography.

— X. J. Kennedy

Maine Sunday Telegram
Scott Donaldson has been able to give us a superb accounting of the life of a major 20th century poet.

— Hannah Merker

Republic

Donaldson's words, like his subjects, are always heartfelt.

New York Review of Books
If [Robinson's] reputation is ever to revive, and it should, the credit ought to go to Scott Donaldson and his biography.

— Charles Simic

Down East: The Magazine of Maine
A richly documented book that eclipses earlier biographies.

— Bruce Allen

Down East: The Magazine of Maine - Bruce Allen

A richly documented book that eclipses earlier biographies.

Wall Street Journal - David Yezzi

[A] sterling biography.

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Rebecca Porte

[A] readable and well-researched book.

Virginia Gazette - John Shulson

Unquestionably, Robinson's life and poetry are worthy of celebration. A Poet's Life offers the reader a chance to participate in that celebration.

The New York Sun - Ernest Hilbert

Mr. Donaldson's close readings of the poems are masterful and edifying.

Times Literary Supplement - William H. Pritchard

[Donaldson's] thorough documentation and responsiveness to Robinson's poetry displaces previous accounts of this fascinating, enigmatic character.

The New Criterion - X.J. Kennedy
A smoothly readable, profoundly well-documented biography.
Maine Sunday Telegram - Hannah Merker

Scott Donaldson has been able to give us a superb accounting of the life of a major 20th century poet.

New York Review of Books - Charles Simic

If [Robinson's] reputation is ever to revive, and it should, the credit ought to go to Scott Donaldson and his biography.

The New Criterion - X. J. Kennedy

A smoothly readable, profoundly well-documented biography.

Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize winner Edwin Arlington Robinson was praised by the best-known critics of his time (e.g., Louis Untermeyer, Irving Howe) and was considered revolutionary for his ability to develop characters (e.g., "Miniver Cheevy," "Richard Cory") within the formal confines of poetic stanzas. At his death in 1935, he was lauded as the nation's preeminent poet. In the last 70 years, however, he has largely been ignored or forgotten. Donaldson (Poet in America: Winfield Townley Scott), who has also authored biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and Archibald MacLeish, wants to remind scholars and readers of Robinson's importance in the literary world. Using approximately 3000 letters that have only recently become available, Donaldson has written a thoroughgoing biography that will likely become a touchstone for anyone interested in the poet's work and life. Recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries with large poetry and/or biography collections.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231138420
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
01/02/2007
Pages:
568
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jay Parini

For too long Edwin Arlington Robinson has been consigned to the ranks of peripheral poets. Scott Donaldson—a gifted biographer—has brought this remarkable man and his poetry vividly to life. This is a welcome book and one that should go a long way toward reestablishing Robinson as a significant voice in American literature.

Jay Parini, author of Robert Frost: A Life

Barry Goldensohn

Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life brings forth new material hitherto unavailable to biographers. The result is a remarkably rounded portrait of a man who kept his public persona deliberately flat.

Barry Goldensohn, Skidmore College

James Dickey

No poet ever understood loneliness or separateness better than Robinson or knew the self-consuming furnace that the brain can become in isolation.

Robert Frost

Robinson's theme was unhappiness itself, but his skill was as happy as it was playful.... His life was a revel in the felicities of language.

W. S. Merwin

The best of Edwin Arlington Robinson's poetry rings with a lyrical and emotional purity and singularity that should assure his place as one of the treasured poets of his generation. His reputation has suffered neglect in recent decades, but a new, clear, meticulous, and perceptive biography incorporating much previously unavailable material is certainly to be welcomed, and Scott Donaldson's Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life should help to revive appreciation for this solitary figure and the unique resonance of his work.

W. S. Merwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry

Richard Wilbur

I'm very glad that Scott Donaldson has given us the first Edwin Arlington Robinson biography in forty years; it will send some readers back to enjoy again his humanity and formal ease, and get some others to meet him for the first time.

Richard Wilbur, former Poet Laureate of the United States

W.S. Merwin
The best of Edwin Arlington Robinson's poetry rings with a lyrical and emotional purity and singularity that should assure his place as one of the treasured poets of his generation. His reputation has suffered neglect in recent decades, but a new, clear, meticulous, and perceptive biography incorporating much previously unavailable material is certainly to be welcomed, and Scott Donaldson's Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life should help to revive appreciation for this solitary figure and the unique resonance of his work.

Meet the Author

Scott Donaldson is one of the nation's leading literary biographers. He has written and edited a number of books, including Poet in America: Winfield Townley Scott; By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway; Fool for Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald; John Cheever: A Biography; Archibald MacLeish: An American Life; and Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald.

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