July 2017

Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study

By Robert Bagg '57, P'82 and Mary Bagg

"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

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.