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Reed Whittemore ( 1919 - )  Category ( Poets ) [suggest a correction]
 

American Poet Laureate Edward Reed Whittemore, Jr. was born to a wealthy, old New England family in New Haven, Connecticut. Like some other young men of his background, he attended a preparatory school, Phillips Academy. Upon graduation he enrolled at Yale University and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in 1941.

While he was at Yale, he and his roommate, James Angleton, founded a literary magazine entitled Furioso. The publication attracted much attention at Yale and other collegiate literary circles, as well as that of professional critics. Furioso published a number of famous poets, including Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. It was published semi-regularly until 1953.

Whittemore enlisted in the United States Army following graduation from Yale. Whittemore served in the Army Air Corp, and like other poets of his generation who served in the war, his experiences during that period surface in his poetry and prose.  World War II encouraged the patriotic in many college graduates. When he returned from the war in 1946 he was hired to teach English at Carleton College. He remained at Carleton for nearly twenty years, after which he accepted a position at the University of Maryland, College Park. He worked in that position until 1984.

One of his former students, Professor Emerita of Literature at American University Myra Sklarew, has written that Whittemore's "wit and irony cleared the air and brought clarity to human relations. He was, from the first, part of the larger world, bringing home to all of us news of that world."

He was appointed Poet Laureate by the United States Library of Congress twice during his lifetime. His first tenure was for 1964-1965, and he was appointed a second time for 1984-1985. Known for his dry, witty, and often deflating poetic humor, Whittemore's first collection of poetry, Heroes & Heroines, was followed by nine additional volumes of poetry and a number of prose works. The poet X.J. Kennedy once remarked that Whittemore's career "has been one brave protest against dullness and stodginess."

In addition to the honor of Poet Laureate, he is a recipient of the National Council on the Arts Award for lifelong contribution to American Letters and Book Award. His memoir, Against the Grain: The Literary Life of a Poet, was published in 2007.

Whittemore resides in College Park, Maryland with his wife Helen.


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