Richard Eberhart

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Richard Ghormley Eberhart (April 5, 1904 – June 9, 2005) was a prolific American poet who published more than a dozen books of poetry and approximately twenty works in total. Eberhart's poetry has been widely recognised winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for Selected Poems: 1930-1965 and a National Book Award in 1977 for Collected Poems: 1930-1976.


  • 1 Early career 1904 to 1945
  • 2 Later career 1945 to 2005
  • 3 Written works
  • 4 References
  • 5 Further reading
  • 6 External links

Early career 1904 to 1945

Eberhart was born in 1904 in Austin, a small town in southeast Minnesota. He grew up on a 40 acre (162,000 m²) estate called Burr Oaks which has since been partitioned into hundreds of residential lots. He published a volume of poetry called Burr Oaks in 1947 and many of his poems reflected his youth in rural America.

Eberhart began college at the University of Minnesota, but following his mother's death in 1921 -- the event that prompted him to begin writing poetry -- he transferred to Dartmouth College. After graduation he worked as a ship's hand, among other jobs, then studied at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took a further degree. After serving as private tutor to the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam in 1931-1932, Eberhart began graduate study at Harvard University.

His first book of poetry A Bravery of Earth was published in 1930. It reflected his experiences in Cambridge and his experience as a ship's hand. Reading the Spirit published in 1937 contains one of his best known poems "The Groundhog".

He later taught in many institutions, beginning with the St. Mark's school. In 1941, he wed Helen Butcher, with whom he had two children.

During World War II he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve; his experience led him to write, in one of his best known poems, "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment":

Was man made stupid to see his own stupidity?
Is God by definition indifferent, beyond us all?
Is the eternal truth man's fighting soul
Wherein the Beast ravens in its own avidity?

In 1945, Eberhart published Poems: New and Selected containing "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment" and other poems written during his service including "Dam Neck, Virginia" and "World War". He also edited War and the Poet: An Anthology of Poetry Expressing Man's Reactions to the Present claiming to be the first collection of poems based on war.

Later career 1945 to 2005

After the war, Eberhart worked for six years for his wife's family's company, the Butcher Polish Company. Burr Oaks was his first work published after the war in 1947 followed by Brotherhood of Men in 1949. In 1950 he was a founder of the Poets' Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

From the early 1950s until his retirement he dedicated himself to writing poems and teaching at institutions of higher education, including the University of Washington, Brown University, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, Columbia University, University of Cincinnati, Wheaton College, Princeton University and Dartmouth College. He taught for 30 years at Dartmouth and was known for his encouragement of young poets during his teaching career including Robert Lowell.

Eberhart published Undercliff: Poems 1946-1953 containing Fragment of New York in 1953. Eberhart wrote a number of dramatic works in the 1950's and early 1960's which were performed regionally. These works included The Apparition, The Visionary Farms, Triptych, The Mad Musicians and Devils and Angels. In 1962, these works were published as Collected Verse Works.

In 1956, The New York Times sent Richard Eberhart to San Francisco to report on the Beat poetry scene there. Eberhart wrote a piece published in the September 6, 1956 New York Times Book Review entitled "West Coast Rhythms" that helped call national attention to the Beat generation, and especially to Allen Ginsberg as the author of Howl, which he called "the most remarkable poem of the young group" (Allen Ginsberg, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Editions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, Precursor Texts & Bibliography, edited by Barry Miles [HarperPerennial, 1995], p. 155).

President Eisenhower appointed Eberhart as a member of the Advisory Committee on the Arts for the National Cultural Centre in 1959. As well, Eberhart was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for 1959-61, and was awarded a Bollingen Prize in 1962.

The Quarry: New Poems published in 1964 contained letters in verse to W. H. Auden and William Carlos Williams as well as elegies, lyrics, character sketches and monologues. His Selected Poems, 1930–1965 (1965) won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Collected Poems, 1930–1976, which appeared in 1976, won the National Book Award in 1977. He was New Hampshire's Poet Laureate from 1979 to 1984, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1982. Eberhart has also won the Shelley Memorial Award, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Award, and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America.

Written works

Eberhart's published works include:

  • A Bravery of Earth 1930
  • Reading the Spirit 1937
  • Song and Idea 1942
  • War and the Poet: An Anthology of Poetry Expressing Man's Attitudes to War from Ancient Times to the Present 1945
  • Poems: New and Selected 1945
  • Burr Oaks 1947
  • Brotherhood of Men 1949
  • Undercliff: Poems 1946-1953 1953
  • Great Praises 1957
  • Collected Verse Plays 1962
  • The Quarry: New Poems 1964
  • Selected Poems: 1930-1965 1965
  • Shifts of Being 1968
  • Collected Poems: 1930-1976 1976
  • The Long Reach: New and Uncollected Works 1948-1984 1984
  • New and Selected Poems: 1930-1990 1990

His most notable poems include:

  • "The Groundhog"
  • "Dam Neck, Virginia"
  • "World War"
  • "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment"
  • "Fragment of New York, 1929"

One poem that makes him a library of congress poet is:

  • The Eclipse
  • Academy of American Poets entry on Richard Eberhart
  • page on Richard Eberhart
  • Houston Chronicle article on Eberhart's death June 12 2005
  • ABC News (America) online article on Eberhart's death
  • famous (american) poets on
  • Allen Ginsberg, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Editions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, Precursor Texts & Bibliography, edited by Barry Miles [HarperPerennial, 1995], p. 155

Further reading

  • Stuart T. Wright, Richard Eberhart: A Descriptive Bibliography 1921-1987 Meckler 1989 ISBN 0-88736-346-6
  • Bernard F. Engel, Richard Eberhart Twayne Publishing 1972 ISBN 0-8057-0228-8
  • Joel Roache, Richard Eberhart: Progress of an American Poet Oxford University Press 1971 ISBN 0-19-501263-1
  • Sydney Lea, Jay Parine and Robin M. Barone (editors), Richard Eberhart: A Celebration Middlebury College Publications 1980 ISBN 0-917241-00-2
  • Richard Eberhart biography and poetry samples. Part of a series of poets.
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