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Biography of Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell (1914 - 1965)

Randall Jarrell (1914 - 1965) was a United States author, writer and poet. He was a native of Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, he was closely acquainted with the group of poets which made up the Fugitives group, but his work is not considered to have been greatly influenced by them. Jarrell followed the great critic John Crowe Ransom from Vanderbilt to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where Jarrell wrote a masters thesis on the poetry of Alfred Edward Housman and roomed with student poet Robert Lowell. Jarrell was a well-respected academic and literary critic in addition to his creative work. He taught at Kenyon College, the University of Texas, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of North Carolina" University of North Carolina.

His first collection of poetry, Blood from a Stranger, was published in 1942, the same year he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He failed to qualify to fly, however, and instead worked for the Army as a control tower operator. His second and third books, Little Friend, Little Friend (1945) and Losses, drew heavily on his Army experiences, dealing with the fears and moral struggles of soldiers. The Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner is a particularly famous Jarrell poem in this vein.

During this period, however, he earned a reputation primarily as a critic, rather than as a poet. Encouraged by Edmund Wilson, who published Jarrell's criticism in The New Republic, Jarrell quickly became a fiercely humorous critic of fellow poets. In the post-war period, his criticism began to change, showing a more positive emphasis. His appreciations of Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams helped to establish their reputations as significant American poets. He is also noted for his essays on Robert Frost, whose poetry was a large influence on Jarrell's own, Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and others, which were mostly collected in Poetry and the Age (1953). Many scholars consider him the most astute poetry critic of his generation.

His reputation as a poet was not fully established until 1960, when his National Book Award-winning collection The Woman at the Washington Zoo was published. His final volume, The Lost World, published in 1966, cemented that reputation; many critics consider it his best work.

Jarrell also published a satiric novel, Pictures from an Institution in 1954, drawing upon his teaching experiences at Sarah Lawrence College, which served as the model for the fictional Benton College, and several children's stories, among which The Bat Poet (1964) and The Animal Family (1965) are considered prominent. He translated poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and others, a play by Anton Chekhov, and several Grimm fairy tales. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position today known as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, from 1956-1958.

In 1965, while walking along a road in Chapel Hill near dusk, Jarrell was struck by a car and killed. The coroner ruled the death accidental, but Jarrell had recently been treated for mental illness and a previous suicide attempt, leaving the truth of the matter in doubt.

In 2004, the Metropolitan Nashville Historical Commission approved placement of a historical marker in his honor, to be placed at Hume-Fogg High School, which he attended.


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 Randall Jarrell.


24 Poems written by Randall Jarrell

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]


First LineComments
(Rainer Maria Rilke) Comments and analysis of The Olive Garden by Randall Jarrell 1 Comment
A bird that I don't know, Comments and analysis of A Country Life by Randall Jarrell 1 Comment
About suffering, about adoration, the old masters Comments and analysis of The Old And The New Masters by Randall Jarrell 12 Comments
At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe, Comments and analysis of 90 North by Randall Jarrell 46 Comments
At the back of the houses there is the wood. Comments and analysis of The House In The Woods by Randall Jarrell 6 Comments
Did they send me away from my cat and my wife
Each day brings its toad, each night its dragon.
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, Comments and analysis of The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell 95 Comments
Her imaginary playmate was a grown-up
I ate pancakes one night in a Pancake House
If, in an odd angle of the hutment, Comments and analysis of Eighth Air Force by Randall Jarrell 5 Comments
In the shabby train no seat is vacant.
It was not dying: everybody died. Comments and analysis of Losses by Randall Jarrell 60 Comments
Looking back in my mind I can see
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All, Comments and analysis of Next Day by Randall Jarrell 3 Comments
One looks from the train
The letters always just evade the hand
The moon rises. The red cubs rolling Comments and analysis of The Breath Of Night by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
The postman comes when I am still in bed. Comments and analysis of A Sick Child by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
The saris go by me from the embassies. Comments and analysis of The Woman At The Washington Zoo by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
The spirit killeth, but the letter giveth life. Comments and analysis of Hope by Randall Jarrell 25 Comments
What a girl called "the dailiness of life" Comments and analysis of Well Water by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
When the swans turned my sister into a swan Comments and analysis of The Black Swan by Randall Jarrell 26 Comments
With beasts and gods, above, the wall is bright.


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