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Biography of Conrad Aiken

Conrad Aiken

Conrad Aiken (1889 - 1973)

American poet, short story writer, critic and novelist. Most of Aiken's work reflects his intense interest in psychoanalysis and the development of identity. As editor of Emily Dickinson's Selected Poems (1924) he was largely responsible for establishing that poet's posthumous literary reputation. From the 1920s Aiken divided his life between England and the United States, playing a significant role in introducing American poets to the British audience.

Conrad Aiken was born in Savannah, Georgia. In his childhood Aiken experienced a considerable trauma when he found the bodies of his parents after his physician father had killed his mother and committed suicide. He was brought up in Massachusetts from the age of eleven by a great-great-aunt.

Before entering Harvard Aiken was educated at private schools and at Middlesex School, Concord. In Harvard he shared a class with T.S. Eliot, with whom he edited the Advocate and whose poetry was to influence his own. Aiken graduated in 1912, in the same era as Eliot, Walter Lippman, Van Wyck Brooks, and E.E. Cummings. After working as a reporter, Aiken devoted himself entirely to writing, having also a small private income. Of the many influences Aiken acknowledged, the writings of Freud, Havelock Ellis, William James, Edgar Allan Poe, and the French Symbolists are evident in his work. Freud considered Aiken's GREAT CIRCLE a masterpiece of analytical introspection.

Aiken's first collection of verse, EARTH TRIUMPHANT, appeared in 1914 and made him known as a poet. He was a contributing editor to Dial, which led to a friendship with Ezra Pound. Aiken's essays, collected in SKEPTICISMS (1919) and A REVIEWER'S ABC (1958), dealt with the questions provoked by his commitment to literature as a mode of self-understanding.

During the First World War Aiken claimed that he was in an 'essential industry' because of being a poet, and was granted an exemption for this reason.

Aiken's adult life was marked by trans-Atlantic journeys. In 1921 he moved from Massachusetts to England, settling in Rye, Sussex. In 1927-28 he was a tutor in English at Harvard. He married Clarissa M. Lorenz in 1930 (divorced in 1937). In 1933 he sailed again for Boston, and then spent two years in Rye (1934-36), writing 'London Letters' to the New Yorker. He returned to New York and Boston, and travelled in Mexico, where he married the artist Mary Hoover. They returned to Rye in 1937, but moved to the United States after the outbreak of World War II.

In 1930 Aiken was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his collection SELECTED POEMS. Most of Aiken's fiction was written in the 1920s and 1930s, among others novels BLUE VOYAGE (1927), in which he used interior monologue, KING COFFIN (1934), and short story collections BRING! BRING! (1925) and AMONG THE LOST PEOPLE (1934).

After staying two years in Rye, Aiken settled in 1947 in Brewster, Massachusetts. He was a consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress from 1950 to 1952. In 1953 he published COLLECTED POEMS, which included the masterwork 'Preludes to Definition' and 'Morning Song of Senlin'. Aiken's 'autobiographical narrative' USHANT (1952) depicted his friendships with Malcolm Lowry, T.S. Eliot, and other figures he knew. It dramatized the attempt of its protagonist, the author's persona, to read the palimpsest of hieroglyphs that constitutes the landscape of his soul, and mingled sketches of the literary generation between the wars with psychoanalytic free association.

From 1962 on Aiken wintered in a Savannah house adjacent to that of his childhood. He died in Savannah on August 17, 1973. Aiken received Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Bollinger Prize in 1956, Gold Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1958, and National Medal for Literature in 1969. Aiken's psychological penetrations and verbal richness never received the wide recognition they deserve in spite of his several awards. Posthumously published THE SELECTED LETTERS OF CONRAD AIKEN (1978) contains correspondence with such literary colleagues as Wallace Stevens, Harriet Monroe, and Edmund Wilson.


Biography by: Petri Liukkonen


64 Poems written by Conrad Aiken

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
12287 All Lovely Things
6240 The Room
5633 Morning Song Of Senlin Comments and analysis of Morning Song Of Senlin by Conrad Aiken 2 Comments
4398 The Carver
4086 Nocturne Of Remembered Spring Comments and analysis of Nocturne Of Remembered Spring by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
3791 Improvisations: Light And Snow
3696 Discordants
3618 The House Of Dust: Complete (Long) Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Complete (Long) by Conrad Aiken 8 Comments
3457 Chiarascuro: Rose Comments and analysis of Chiarascuro: Rose by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
3440 The House Of Dust: Introduction
3424 Hatteras Calling
3400 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 10: Sudden Death
3053 Senlin: His Cloudy Destiny
2836 Turns And Movies: Dancing Adairs
2733 Senlin: His Dark Origins Comments and analysis of Senlin: His Dark Origins by Conrad Aiken 6 Comments
2627 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 05: The Bitter Love-Song
2622 Turns And Movies: Zudora
2587 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 03: One, where the pale sea foamed at the yellow sand
2573 Turns And Movies: Rose And Murray
2543 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 01: As evening falls
2533 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 07: The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light
2495 Turns And Movies: Violet Moore And Bert Moore
2415 Turns And Movies: Duval's Birds
2406 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 12: Witches' Sabbath Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 03: 12: Witches' Sabbath by Conrad Aiken 2 Comments
2317 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 08: The white fog creeps from the cold sea over the city
2307 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 13: The half-shut doors through which we heard that music
2289 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 05: Retrospect
2238 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 03: Palimpsest: A Deceitful Portrait Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 04: 03: Palimpsest: A Deceitful Portrait by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
2223 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 02: The Fulfilled Dream
2187 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 10: Letter Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 03: 10: Letter by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
2186 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 04: Counterpoint: Two Rooms
2156 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 03: Interlude Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 02: 03: Interlude by Conrad Aiken 7 Comments
2133 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 09: Interlude
2119 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 06: Adele And Davis Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 02: 06: Adele And Davis by Conrad Aiken 6 Comments
2117 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 09: Cabaret
2070 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 06: Portrait Of One Dead
2068 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 05: Melody In A Restaurant
2033 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 07: Midnight; bells toll, and along the cloud-high towers
2021 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 11: Snow falls. The sky is grey, and sullenly glares
2015 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 05: The snow floats down upon us, mingled with rain Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 01: 05: The snow floats down upon us, mingled with rain by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
1979 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 06: Cinema Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 04: 06: Cinema by Conrad Aiken 197 Comments
1956 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 02: The Screen Maiden
1926 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 01: The round red sun heaves darkly out of the sea
1919 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 06: Over the darkened city, the city of towers Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 01: 06: Over the darkened city, the city of towers by Conrad Aiken 2 Comments
1896 Senlin: His Futile Preoccupations
1881 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 01: Clairvoyant
1840 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 08: Coffins: Interlude
1831 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 11: Conversation: Undertones
1813 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 02: Death: And A Derisive Chorus
1629 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 08: The Box With Silver Handles
449 A Letter From Li Po Comments and analysis of A Letter From Li Po by Conrad Aiken 10 Comments
419 The Window
332 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 07: Porcelain
282 Evening Song Of Senlin
209 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 04: Nightmare
104 Music I Heard Comments and analysis of Music I Heard by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
92 Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise The Rain
73 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 04: Up high black walls, up sombre terraces
50 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 01: The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light
50 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 07: Two Lovers: Overtones Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 02: 07: Two Lovers: Overtones by Conrad Aiken 5 Comments
47 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 02: One, from his high bright window in a tower
38 Turns And Movies: The Cornet
31 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 04: Illicit Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Part 03: 04: Illicit by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
27 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 03: Haunted Chambers


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