MacLeish, Archibald(məklēsh`), 1892–1982, American poet and public official, b. Glencoe, Ill., grad. Yale, 1915, LL.B Harvard, 1919. He practiced law for only three years and during the 1920s lived mostly in France. There he produced several volumes of verse, including The Pot of Earth (1925) and The Hamlet of A. MacLeish (1928). Conquistador (1932; Pulitzer Prize) is a narrative poem about the conquest of Mexico. MacLeish returned to the United States in the 1930s; the volume of poetry Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City (1933) and the verse play for radio The Fall of the City (1937) reveal his deepening concern with the rise of Fascism in the world. He was librarian of Congress (1939–44) and undersecretary of State (1944–45). From 1949 to 1962 he was Boylston professor of rhetoric at Harvard. Among his later works are the verse drama J. B. (1958; Pulitzer Prize), a retelling of the story of Job in a modern setting; volumes of poetry including Collected Poems 1917–1952 (1952; Pulitzer Prize), The Wild Wicked Old Man (1968), The Human Season (1972), and Collected Poems, 1917–1982 (1985); a volume of prose, Riders on the Earth (1978), and a play, Scratch (1971), based on Stephen Vincent Benét's short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster."
See his letters, ed. R. H. Winnick (1983); B. A. Drabeck and H. E. Ellis, ed., Archibald MacLeish (1986).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
MacLeish, Archibald(1892–1982) poet, writer, public official; born in Glencoe, Ill. He studied at Yale (B.A. 1915) and served in World War I before receiving an L.L.B. from Harvard (1919). He practiced law in Boston (1920–23) before setting off to Europe to concentrate on his writing, which came under the influence of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. He returned to the U.S.A. to become editor of Fortune in New York City (1928–38) and then Librarian of Congress (1939–44) and assistant secretary of state (1944–45), among other posts. In 1932 he received a Pulitzer Prize for his epic poem Conquistador, about the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Much of his poetry in this period shows a pronounced concern for national life, culture, social issues, and the preservation of democracy, and he became known as "the poet laureate of the New Deal." He was Boylston professor at Harvard from 1949 to 1962. In 1952 he won a second Pulitzer Prize for his Collected Poems, 1917–1952 and a third in 1958 for his drama J. B., a modernized treatment of the story of Job.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.