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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

Page ViewsPoemComments
9635 The Woman At The Washington Zoo Comments and analysis of The Woman At The Washington Zoo by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
9354 Eighth Air Force Comments and analysis of Eighth Air Force by Randall Jarrell 5 Comments
8679 A Country Life Comments and analysis of A Country Life by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
6521 Hope Comments and analysis of Hope by Randall Jarrell 30 Comments
6045 The Refugees
5803 The Breath Of Night Comments and analysis of The Breath Of Night by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
5518 The Olive Garden Comments and analysis of The Olive Garden by Randall Jarrell 1 Comment
4738 The Black Swan Comments and analysis of The Black Swan by Randall Jarrell 27 Comments
4570 Gunner
4550 Cinderella
3614 The House In The Woods Comments and analysis of The House In The Woods by Randall Jarrell 6 Comments
3395 Children Selecting Books In A Library
3019 The Old And The New Masters Comments and analysis of The Old And The New Masters by Randall Jarrell 13 Comments
2987 The Orient Express
2457 Jerome
1303 A Sick Child Comments and analysis of A Sick Child by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments
727 Losses Comments and analysis of Losses by Randall Jarrell 254 Comments
684 Next Day Comments and analysis of Next Day by Randall Jarrell 3 Comments
679 The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner Comments and analysis of The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell 111 Comments
604 The Player Piano
441 Mail Call
412 The Elementary Scene
232 90 North Comments and analysis of 90 North by Randall Jarrell 437 Comments
160 Well Water Comments and analysis of Well Water by Randall Jarrell 2 Comments

Books by Randall Jarrell
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Jarrell Info

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