Edwin Arlington Robinson

Franklin Library Edwin Arlington Robinson books

Selected Poems of Edwin Arlington Robinson - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature - 1979


Poet Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson, born on December 22, 1869, in Head Tide, Maine, was an influential American poet known for his introspective and often melancholic verse. Growing up in relative poverty, Robinson experienced early hardships, including the death of his father and the collapse of his family's business. These experiences profoundly influenced his writing, shaping themes of isolation, despair, and the human condition that would become central to his poetry. Despite his difficult upbringing, Robinson displayed a talent for writing from a young age. He attended Harvard University briefly, but financial constraints forced him to drop out before completing his degree. Undeterred, Robinson continued to pursue his passion for poetry, self-publishing his first collection, "The Torrent and the Night Before," in 1896.

It wasn't until the early 20th century, with the publication of his second collection, The Children of the Night (1897), that Robinson gained wider recognition as a poet. This collection showcased his mastery of the sonnet form and introduced themes of alienation, despair, and moral ambiguity that would become hallmarks of his work. Robinson's breakthrough came with the publication of Tristram (1927), a narrative poem that earned him critical acclaim and established him as one of America's foremost poets. The poem tells the story of Tristram, a troubled young man struggling to find his place in the world, and explores themes of identity, fate, and the search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe.

Throughout his career, Robinson received numerous awards and honors for his poetry, including three Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry for his collections Collected Poems (1922), The Man Who Died Twice (1925), and Tristram (1928). He was also appointed as the first Poet Laureate of the United States in 1949, a position he held until his death. Robinson's poetry is characterized by its formal precision, psychological insight, and lyrical beauty. His works often delve into the complexities of human nature, exploring the darkest recesses of the human psyche with a keen eye for detail and nuance.

Despite his critical acclaim, Robinson struggled with personal demons throughout his life, including bouts of depression and alcoholism. He lived much of his life in relative obscurity, finding solace in his work and the quiet rhythms of rural life in Maine. Edwin Arlington Robinson passed away on April 6, 1935, at the age of 65. Although he is sometimes overlooked in discussions of American poetry, his influence on subsequent generations of poets is undeniable, and his work continues to be celebrated for its timeless themes and enduring relevance. 


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