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Josephine Jacobsen ( 1908 - 2003 )  Category ( Poets ) [suggest a correction]

American poet and Poet Laureate Josephine Jacobsen's writing career spanned more than eight decades. Born in Ontario, Canada, where her parents were vacationing, Jacobsen (born  Josephine Winder Boylan) was born premature, weighing only two pounds. Her father died when she was only five years old. Her mother continued to travel the world with Jacobsen, and she was educated by tutors, later transferring to Roland Park Country School, where she graduated in 1926.

In 1932, she met Eric Jacobsen, who owned a tea importing business. The couple married and had a son, Erlend. They remained together until Eric's death in 1995. There Jacobsen would remain for most of her life.

Her first poem was published in a children's magazine when she was only ten years old. Many years later she described that experience as something approaching erotic. "I stood on the sidewalk, obstructive, stunned, looking at my words, naked, displayed to the world, and happily I did not know that this deflowering would be a climax never reached again," she said.

Jacobsen never attended college. Her mother believed that only "girls without prospects go to college." She relied on her own innate sense of word and feeling. Her work is known for its spare elegance, often exploring ideas related to identity, isolation, communication, and the relationship between the spiritual and the physical. Her work embraces the dark and mysterious aspects of life. She also was known for an empathetic ear to other poets, particularly those just beginning to express their art.

Her short story collections, her nonfictional work, and her work as a literary critic are also highly regarded. Among the awards and honorifics she received during her career include the L. Marshal Award for the best book of poetry, and the Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. She considered her greatest honor achieved to be her appointment to the position of Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. She served in that capacity from 1971 to 1973.

Fame came to her only in later life, during her sixties, seventies, and eighties. While she clearly enjoyed writing, she once made a statement, from which other writers might take comfort. She claimed that she hated revision. "It is a labor I loathe but I practice it always. I don't think I have ever sent a poem out to be published that hasn't been kept on the desk for at least two weeks, possibly a month because the poem that you read a month after you've written it is not the poem that you think you've written."

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