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Biography of Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish (1892 - 1982)

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 - April 20, 1982) was an American poet, writer, and public servant. He is associated with the modernist school of poetry.

MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. His father, Andrew MacLeish, was a dry-goods merchant. His mother, Martha Hillard, was a college professor. He grew up on an estate bordering Lake Michigan.

He attended the Hotchkiss School from 1907 to 1911, before moving on to Yale where he majored in English and became a member of the Skull and Bones secret society. He then enrolled in the Harvard Law School. In 1916, he married Ada Hitchcock.

His studies were interrupted by World War I, in which he served first as an ambulance driver and later as a captain of artillery. He graduated from the law school in 1919. He taught law for a semester for the government department at Harvard, then worked briefly as an editor for the "New Republic". He next spent three years practicing law.

In 1923 MacLeish left his law firm and moved with his wife to Paris, where they joined the community of literary expatriates that included such members as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. He returned to America in 1928.

From 1930 to 1938 he worked as a writer and editor for Fortune Magazine, during which time he also became increasingly politically active, especially with anti-fascist causes. He was a great admirer of Franklin Roosevelt, who appointed him Librarian of Congress in 1939. MacLeish held this job for five years, and is remembered as an effective leader who helped modernize the Library.

During World War II MacLeish also served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures, and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information. These jobs were heavily involved with propaganda, which was well-suited to MacLeish's talents; he had written quite a bit of politically-motivated work in the previous decade.

He spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for cultural affairs, and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO. After this, he retired from public service and returned to academia.

Despite a long history of criticizing Marxism, MacLeish came under fire from conservative politicians of the 1940s and 1950s, including J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Much of this was due to his involvement with anti-fascist organizations like the League of American Writers, and to his friendship with prominent left-wing writers.

In 1949 MacLeish became the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. He held this position until his retirement in 1962.

From 1963 to 1967 he was the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College.


Biography by: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Archibald MacLeish.


10 Poems written by Archibald MacLeish

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | [Page Views] | Comments | First Lines


Page ViewsPoemComments
7802 Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell Comments and analysis of Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell by Archibald MacLeish 5 Comments
7068 The End Of The World Comments and analysis of The End Of The World by Archibald MacLeish 18 Comments
4751 An Eternity Comments and analysis of An Eternity by Archibald MacLeish 1 Comment
3120 The Too-Late Born
2296 Two Poems from the War
1447 You, Andrew Marvell Comments and analysis of You, Andrew Marvell by Archibald MacLeish 238 Comments
349 Ars Poetica Comments and analysis of Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish 66 Comments
256 Baccalaureate
226 The Snowflake Which Is Now And Hence Forever Comments and analysis of The Snowflake Which Is Now And Hence Forever by Archibald MacLeish 18 Comments
225 Poem in Prose Comments and analysis of Poem in Prose by Archibald MacLeish 1 Comment


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