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Richard Wilbur

From Academic Kids

Richard Wilbur (born March 1, 1921, in New York City) is a United States poet. He graduated from Amherst College 1942, then fought in Europe during World War II. After a teaching stint at Harvard, he moved to Wesleyan University as Professor of English, a position he occupied there for the rest of his career. He has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and in 1987 was the second poet, after Robert Penn Warren to be named U.S. Poet Laureate.

From the start, Wilbur's poetry was characterized by a formal and refined structure that he helped to make popular. His poems' beauty is in their simplicity and their brevity, though even his longer and most complex poems (see "The Mind-Reader" or "Walking to Sleep") read easily. It is possible for the average educated reader to finish Wilbur's collected poems at a single sitting. For this reason, Wilbur is sometimes dismissed as a lightweight or a reactionary. Continuing and refining the tradition of Robert Frost and W. H. Auden, Wilbur's poetry finds illumination in everyday experiences and expresses it in beautiful, carefully wrought language.

Lesser-known was Wilbur's foray into lyric writing. He provided many of the finer lyrical touches in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical, Candide.

He is also noted as a translator, particularly of 17th century French dramas, whose original verse forms give prove Wilbur competent in both translation and verse. His translations of Molière and Jean Racine are well respected and many are still in print.

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