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The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Current Poet Laureate > Past Poets Laureate: 1937-1960
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1937-1941

Joseph Auslander

Joseph Auslander

Auslander (1897-1965), who was born in Philadelphia and graduated Harvard College, was appointed in 1937 as the first Consultant in Poetry without a definite term and served four years. He was noted for his war poems, and his best-known work is "The Unconquerables" (1943), a collection of poems addressed to the German-occupied countries of Europe.

1943-1944

Allen Tate

Allen Tate

Tate (1899-1979), born in Kentucky and graduated from Vanderbilt University, was a poet and a literary critic, who wrote at least 20 books and received many honors, including the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1956. He was the founding editor of The Fugitive, from 1922 to '25, a magazine of poems published in Nashville by a group of Southern poets. Tate is noted for his poem "Ode to the Confederate Dead" (1927).

1944-1945

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren

Although he was an award-winning poet, Warren (1905-1989) was better known for his novel, "All the King's Men" which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. He received subsequent Pulitzers for two volumes of poetry, "Promises" in 1958 and "Now and Then" in 1979. He taught at Vanderbilt, Louisiana State, the University of Minnesota and Yale. He wrote "Understanding Poetry" (1938), a textbook that widely influenced the study of poetry on the college level.

1945-1946

Louise Bogan

Louise Bogan

Bogan (1897-1970), who was born in Livermore Falls, Maine, and attended Boston University for one year, was a poet and a critic. She reviewed poetry for 38 years for the New Yorker magazine. Her best-known book of poems, "Collected Poems 1923-1953," won a shared Bollingen Prize in 1954. Her highly formal poetry usually explored the themes of love and grief.

1946-1947

Karl Shapiro

Karl Shapiro

(1913-2000) Shapiro, born in Baltimore, graduated Johns Hopkins University in 1939. He served in World War II and sent poems home to his fiancée, who then had them printed. Shapiro won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for "V-Letter and Other Poems." He taught at the University of Nebraska, where he edited the Prairie Schooner from 1956-1966. His poetry was known for its stylistic variety and powerful imagery.

1947-1948

Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell

Lowell (1917-1977), born into a prominent Boston family, left Harvard College after two years and finished his bachelor's at Kenyon College in 1940. He received a Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for "Lord Weary's Castle." Lowell's style was rigorously formal, until he loosened his adherence to meter and form with "Life Studies," which received the National Book Award in 1960. He is considered the father of "confessional poetry."

1948-1949

Leonie Adams

Leonie Adams

Adams (1899-1988) was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Barnard College. In the 1920s, she worked as an editor for Wilson Publishing and for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and went on to teach English at several colleges and universities. Her collection of poetry "Poems: A Selection" received the 1954 Bollingen Prize. She is known for her lyric poetry in the English Romantic tradition.

1949-1950

Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop

Bishop (1911-1979) was Born in Worcester, Mass. Her father died before her first birthday and her mother was committed to a mental asylum several years later. She was raised by grandparents and graduated from Vassar College in 1934. Bishop traveled widely and lived for 18 years in Brazil. Her book "Poems: North and South * A Cold Spring" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956. Her poems focused on geography and landscape and human connection with the natural world.

1950-1952

Conrad Aiken

Conrad Aiken

Aiken (1889-1973) was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lost his father and mother in a tragic murder-suicide. He was raised by a great-great-aunt in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard. His poetry, which explored themes of psychology and development of identity, won many prizes, including the Pulitzer in 1930 for "Selected Poems," the National Book Award in 1954 for "Collected Poems," and the Bollingen Prize.

1952

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

Williams (1883-1963) was appointed as Consultant in Poetry but did not serve. Born in Rutherford, N.J., Williams became a doctor, as well as a poet, novelist and essayist. He had a lifelong pediatric practice in the Rutherford area. He is noted for creating a fresh, free metrical rhythm based on the American speech of his subjects, local New Jersey people mired in the everyday circumstances of life.

1956-1958

Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell

Jarrell (1914-1965), born in Nashville, Tenn., socialized with the Fugitive group of Southern poets. His first important poetry book, "Little Friend, Little Friend" (1945) documented the fears and struggles of young soldiers. His 1960 book of poetry "The Woman at the Washington Zoo" won the National Book Award. Jarrell was known for his essays and poetry criticism, regarded as engaging and dazzling and instrumental in establishing Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop and William Carlos Williams as significant American poets.

1958-1959

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

Frost (1874-1963), the best known and most beloved American poet of the 20th century, won the Pulitzer Prize four times for "New Hampshire" (1924), "Collected Poems" (1931), "A Further Range" (1937) and "A Witness Tree" (1943). Much of Frost's work dealt with the life and landscape of New England. He was a poet of traditional verse forms and metric, avoiding the poetic movements of his time. Frost taught primarily at Amherst, 1917-1963. He received 44 honorary degrees, many government tributes and the Bollingen Prize posthumously.

1959-1961

Richard Eberhart

Richard Eberhart

Eberhart (1904-2005), born in Austin, Minn., and graduated from Dartmouth College, is considered one of the major lyric voices of the 20th century. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for "Selected Poems 1930-1965," and a 1977 National Book Award for "Collected Poems 1930-1976." In 1962, he won a shared Bollingen Prize. He taught English for many years at Dartmouth College.

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