Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Richard Eberhart (born April 5 1904 in Austin, Minnesota) is a prolific American poet who has published more than twenty books of poetry, taught widely. To many, Eberhart seemed a quasi-official voice of American poetry in the mid-20th century.
The Reader's Encyclopedia (4th ed.) noted that his "lyric poetry is characterized by short lines, few rhymes, and the use of abstract symbols from which the poet draws parallels to philosophical or metaphysical ideas." The tension between mutability and mortality, on the one hand, and the eternal realm of abstract ideas, on the other, is a recurring theme; some have claimed to see the influence of Henri Bergson's philosophy in his work.
Eberhart began college at the University of Minnesota, but following his mother's death in 1921 -- the event that prompted him to begin writing poetry -- he transferred to Dartmouth College. After graduation he worked as a ship's hand, among other jobs, then studied at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took a further degree. After serving as private tutor to the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam in 1931-1932, Eberhart began graduate study at Harvard University. He later taught in many institutions, beginning with the St. Mark's school. In 1941 he wed Helen Butcher, with whom he had two children.
During World War II he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve; his experience led him to write, in one of his best known poems, "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment":
- Was man made stupid to see his own stupidity?
- Is God by definition indifferent, beyond us all?
- Is the eternal truth man's fighting soul
- Wherein the Beast ravens in its own avidity?
After the war, Eberhart worked for six years for his wife's family's company, the Butcher Polish Company. In 1950 he was a founder of the Poets' Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From the early 1950s until his retirement he dedicated himself to writing poems and teaching at institutions of higher education, including the University of Washington, Brown University, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, Columbia University, University of Cincinnati, Wheaton College, Princeton University and Dartmouth College.
A Bravery of Earth, his first poetry collection, was published in 1930. Other titles include Song and Idea (1942), Burr Oaks (1947), Undercliff (1953), Great Praises (1957), The Quarry (1964). He was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for 1959-61, and was awarded a Bollingen Prize in 1962. His Selected Poems, 1930–1965 (1965) won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Collected Poems, 1930–1976, which appeared in 1976, won the National Book Award in 1977. He was New Hampshire's Poet Laureate from 1979 to 1984, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1982. Eberhart has also won the Shelley Memorial Award, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Award, and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America.
- In 1956, The New York Times sent Richard Eberhart to San Francisco to report on the Beat poetry scene there. Eberhart wrote a piece published in the September 6, 1956 New York Times Book Review entitled "West Coast Rhythms" that helped call national attention to the Beat generation, and especially to Allen Ginsberg as the author of [[Howl]], which he called "the most remarkable poem of the young group" (Allen Ginsberg, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Editions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, Precursor Texts & Bibliography, edited by Barry Miles [HarperPerennial, 1995], p. 155).
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