Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life

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Columbia University Press, Aug 14, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 568 pages
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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 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.

 

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Edwin Arlington Robinson: a poet's life

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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 ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
1 A Hell of a Name for a Poet
14
2 A Manor Town in Maine
24
3 Never So Young Again
36
4 Fall of the House of Robinson
59
5 A Special at Harvard
73
6 Farewell to Carefree Days
89
7 Shaping a Life
99
17 Life in the Woods Death in Boston
277
18 Reversal of Fortune
292
19 A Poet Once Again
303
20 A Breakthrough Book
313
21 Reaching Fifty
327
22 Seasons of Success
356
23 A Sojourn in England
380
24 MacDowells First Citizen
389

8 Loves Lost
121
9 Breaking Away
140
10 Poetry as a Calling
155
11 City of Artists
173
12 The Saga of Captain Craig
193
13 Down and Out
215
14 Theater Days
235
15 The End of Something
251
16 Down and Out Yet Again
259
25 Recognition and Its Consequences
414
26 Generosities
437
27 Death of a Poet
449
28 Beyond the Sunset
468
Acknowledgments
483
Notes
487
Bibliography
517
Index
537
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

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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