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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
12113 All Lovely Things
8258 Music I Heard Comments and analysis of Music I Heard by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
6125 The Room
5476 Morning Song Of Senlin Comments and analysis of Morning Song Of Senlin by Conrad Aiken 2 Comments
4264 The Carver
4164 Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise The Rain
3948 Nocturne Of Remembered Spring Comments and analysis of Nocturne Of Remembered Spring by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
3647 Improvisations: Light And Snow
3577 Discordants
3536 The House Of Dust: Complete (Long) Comments and analysis of The House Of Dust: Complete (Long) by Conrad Aiken 7 Comments
3419 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
3375 Chiarascuro: Rose Comments and analysis of Chiarascuro: Rose by Conrad Aiken 1 Comment
3364 The House Of Dust: Introduction
3330 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 10: Sudden Death
3316 Hatteras Calling
2934 Senlin: His Cloudy Destiny
2718 Turns And Movies: Dancing Adairs
2631 Senlin: His Dark Origins Comments and analysis of Senlin: His Dark Origins by Conrad Aiken 5 Comments
2542 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 05: The Bitter Love-Song
2524 Turns And Movies: Zudora
2506 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 03: One, where the pale sea foamed at the yellow sand
2493 Turns And Movies: Rose And Murray
2383 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 01: As evening falls
2382 Turns And Movies: Violet Moore And Bert Moore
2377 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 07: The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light
2333 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
2329 Turns And Movies: Duval's Birds
2243 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 13: The half-shut doors through which we heard that music
2219 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 05: Retrospect
2215 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 08: The white fog creeps from the cold sea over the city
2196 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 01: The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light
2147 Turns And Movies: The Cornet
2130 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
2124 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 02: The Fulfilled Dream
2107 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
2097 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
2071 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 04: Counterpoint: Two Rooms
2067 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 09: Interlude
2056 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 5 Comments
2052 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 04: Up high black walls, up sombre terraces
2039 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 09: Cabaret
2003 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 05: Melody In A Restaurant
1990 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 06: Portrait Of One Dead
1961 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 11: Snow falls. The sky is grey, and sullenly glares
1933 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 07: Midnight; bells toll, and along the cloud-high towers
1898 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
1892 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
1889 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
1886 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 02: The Screen Maiden
1847 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
1840 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 01: The round red sun heaves darkly out of the sea
1836 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 03: Haunted Chambers
1825 Senlin: His Futile Preoccupations
1791 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 08: Coffins: Interlude
1789 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 11: Conversation: Undertones
1779 The House Of Dust: Part 01: 02: One, from his high bright window in a tower
1732 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 02: Death: And A Derisive Chorus
1680 The House Of Dust: Part 04: 01: Clairvoyant
1573 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 08: The Box With Silver Handles
319 A Letter From Li Po Comments and analysis of A Letter From Li Po by Conrad Aiken 7 Comments
275 The Window
206 The House Of Dust: Part 03: 07: Porcelain
198 Evening Song Of Senlin
127 The House Of Dust: Part 02: 04: Nightmare


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