Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur
392 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
15 b&w illus.
Release Date:22 Feb 2017

Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur

A Biographical Study

University of Massachusetts Press
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Richard Wilbur (b. 1921) is part of a notable literary cohort, American poets who came to prominence in the mid-twentieth century. Wilbur's verse is esteemed for its fluency, wit, and optimism; his ingeniously rhymed translations of French drama by Molière, Racine, and Corneille remain the most often staged in the English-speaking world; his essays possess a scope and acumen equal to the era's best criticism. This biography examines the philosophical and visionary depth of his world-renowned poetry and traces achievements spanning seventy years, from political editorials about World War II to war poems written during his service to his theatrical career, including a contentious collaboration with Leonard Bernstein and Lillian Hellman.
Wilbur's life has been mistakenly seen as blessed, lacking the drama of his troubled contemporaries. Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur corrects that view and explores how Wilbur's perceived "normality" both enhanced and limited his achievement. The authors augment the life story with details gleaned from access to his unpublished journals, family archives, candid interviews they conducted with Wilbur and his wife, Charlee, and his correspondence with Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, John Malcolm Brinnin, James Merrill, and others.
This book tells the story of a fascinating and deeply civilized life, the life of the poet Richard Wilbur. It rests on long and deep research. It is well and succinctly told. And it is a true critical biography, which slights neither the subject's life nor his work, but presents them as an integrated whole. Richard Wilbur, now in his middle nineties, will live on among the great American poets, and this biography rises to its transcendent subject.'—Tracy Kidder
'The authors enrich our understanding of Wilbur's poems by discussing them in the context of his life—how his experiences shed light on particular lines.'—Scott Knickerbocker, author of Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language
'With admirable scholarship and acumen, Robert and Mary Bagg provide much valuable information, from childhood to the present, about the life and work of a great American poet. Many will wish to re-read Richard Wilbur's poetry in the new light of context and circumstance that the Baggs provide.'—R. S. Gwynn, poet and critic
'Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur by Robert and Mary Bagg . . . offers a definitive account of Wilbur's wartime experiences and helps us see how they gave rise to his literary achievement.'—James Matthew Wilson, The Weekly Standard
'Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A biographical study by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg . . . is a thorough, thoughtful portrait of the supreme US stylist of the past sixty years.'—Paul Muldoon, Times Literary Supplement
'A comprehensive, deeply researched, and admiring account of his life. Working from personal journals, years of interviews, letters, and accounts from across the world of American letters, literary scholars Robert and Mary Bagg tell the story of a man and a mind.'—The Living Church
Robert Bagg is professor emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a poet, and a translator. Mary Bagg is a freelance editor.
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