Robert Penn Warren

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Warren, Robert Penn,

1905–89, American novelist, poet, and critic, b. Guthrie, Ky., grad. Vanderbilt Univ. 1925; M.A., Univ. of California 1927; B.Litt., Oxford 1930. At Vanderbilt he became associated with John Crowe Ransomransom,
price of redemption demanded by the captor of a person, vessel, or city. In ancient times cities frequently paid ransom to prevent their plundering by captors. The custom of ransoming was formerly sanctioned by law.
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 and the group of Southern agrarian poets who made the Fugitive (1922–25) an important literary magazine. He was managing editor with Cleanth Brooks of the Southern Review. Warren first gained recognition as a poet. His early verse was much influenced by the metaphysical poetsmetaphysical poets,
name given to a group of English lyric poets of the 17th cent. The term was first used by Samuel Johnson (1744). The hallmark of their poetry is the metaphysical conceit (a figure of speech that employs unusual and paradoxical images), a reliance on
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, but his later poetry is simpler and more regional. Among his volumes of poetry are Thirty-six Poems (1935); Brother to Dragons (1953; Pulitzer Prize), a long, dramatic poem; Promises (1957; Pulitzer Prize), Selected Poems: New and Old (1966), Incarnations (1968), Audubon: A Vision (1969), Or Else (1974), and New and Selected Poems 1923–1985 (1985). Warren's most famous novel is All the King's Men (1946; Pulitzer Prize), which concerns the rise to power of a political demagogue resembling Huey LongLong, Huey Pierce,
1893–1935, American political leader, b. Winnfield, La.; brother of Earl Long. Originally a farm boy, he was an extremely successful traveling salesman before studying law at Tulane Univ.
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. Among his other novels are World Enough and Time (1950), The Cave (1959), Wilderness (1961), Flood (1964), Meet Me in the Green Glen (1971), and A Place to Come To (1977). His other works include a collection of short stories, The Circus in the Attic (1948), and Selected Essays (1958). From 1986 to 1987 he served as the first poet laureate of the United States.


See biography by J. Blotner (1997); correspondence with C. Brooks (1998), ed. by J. A. Grimshaw, Jr.; studies by C. Bohner (1964, rev. ed. 1981), J. Justus (1981), and K. Snipes (1984).

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Warren, Robert Penn

(1905–89) poet, writer; born in Guthrie, Ky. He studied at Vanderbilt University (B.A. 1925), the University of California: Berkeley (M.A. 1927), Yale (1927–28), and Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (B. Litt. 1930). At college he had joined with other poets known as the "Fugitives" or "Southern agrarians" to promote Southern conservative values, even defending segregation in I'll Take My Stand (1930), but from the 1950s on he was outspoken in demanding that the South change its ways. He taught at many institutions, primarily Yale (1961–73), and was named the first official Poet Laureate of the United States (1986), among many other honors. Based in Fairfield, Conn., he worked as an editor, wrote critical essays, poetry, and novels; the most famous of his novels is All the King's Men (1946), based on the career of Huey Long. He was also a founder and editor of the Southern Review (1935–42) and an advisory editor of Kenyon Review (1938–68).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.