Since 1937, a telephone call from the Library of Congress informs a poet that he or she has been designated “Consultancy of Poetry” to the United States of America. We call them Poet Laureate. This is their histories, in brief. We name, date their appointment, tell a few pertinent details, and share a sample of their work. Enjoy!
#1 1937 - 1941
Joseph Auslander (1897 – 1965) Born in Philadelphia, he was the first and one of the longest serving in the post. He attended Harvard and began teaching poetry at Columbia in 1929. He is perhaps best known for his wartime open letters to the conquered countries of Europe at the beginning of WW II. He married a poet, Audrey Wurdemann, who at 24 was the youngest to ever win a Pulitzer for poetry, Bright Ambush. He authored 12 books including one with Wurdemann: More Than Bread, Cyclops’ Eye, My Uncle Jan (novel), No Traveller Returns, My Uncle Jan (with Wurdemann), The Unconquerables: Salute to the Undying Spirit of the Nazi-Occupied Countries, The Islanders, Cyplop’s Eye, Letters to Women, Riders at the Gate, The Virgil of Venus, and Green World.
By Joseph Auslander
I will not make a sonnet from
Each little private martyrdom;
Nor out of love left dead with time
Construe a stanza or a rhyme.
We do not suffer to afford
The searched for and the subtle word:
There is too much that may not be
At the caprice of prosody.
Next: Allen Tate 1943-1944
Primary source: The Poets Laureate
Anthology by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
in association with the Library of Congress
(Please let me know if you'd like this series to continue.)
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