Donald Justice

Donald Justice (1925-2004). Photo by Curt Richter. Courtesy Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Donald Justice
Born Donald Rodney Justice
August 12, 1925
Miami, Florida, United States
Died August 6, 2004(2004-Template:MONTHNUMBER-06) (aged 78)
Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.
Citizenship United States United States
Alma mater University of Miami,
University of Iowa
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize,
Bollingen Prize

Donald Rodney Justice (August 12, 1925 - August 6, 2004) was an American poet and academic.


Justice grew up in Florida, and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami in 1945. He received an M.A.. from the University of North Carolina in 1947, studied for a time at Stanford University, and ultimately earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1954. [1][2]

He went on to teach for many years at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the nation's first graduate program in creative writing. He also taught at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.[3] In his obituary, Andrew Rosenheim notes that Justice "was a legendary teacher, and despite his own Formalist reputation influenced a wide range of younger writers. His students included Mark Strand, Rita Dove, James Tate, Jorie Graham and the novelist John Irving".[4] His student and later colleague Marvin Bell said in a reminiscence, "As a teacher, Don chose always to be on the side of the poem, defending it from half-baked attacks by students anxious to defend their own turf. While he had firm preferences in private, as a teacher Don defended all turfs. He had little use for poetic theory..."[5]


Of Justice's accomplishments as a poet, his former student, the poet and critic Tad Richards, noted that, "Donald Justice is likely to be remembered as a poet who gave his age a quiet but compelling insight into loss and distance, and who set a standard for craftsmanship, attention to detail, and subtleties of rhythm."[6]

In summing up Justice's career, David Orr has written, "In most ways, Justice was no different from any number of solid, quiet older writers devoted to traditional short poems. But he was different in one important sense: sometimes his poems weren't just good; they were great. They were great in the way that Elizabeth Bishop's poems were great, or Thom Gunn's or Philip Larkin's. They were great in the way that tells us what poetry used to be, and is, and will be."[7]


Justice's first collection, The Summer Anniversaries, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets in 1961. His Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1980. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.

His honors also included grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. His Collected Poems was nominated for the National Book Award in 2004. Justice was also a National Book Award Finalist in 1961, 1974, and 1995.

Justice's work was the subject of the 1998 volume Certain Solitudes: On The Poetry of Donald Justice, a collection of essays edited by Dana Gioia and William Logan.[8]

He is commemorated by the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, awarded annually since 2006 by the West Chester University Poetry Center.



  • The Old Bachelor and other poems. Miami, FL: Pandanus Press, 1951.
  • The Summer Anniversaries. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1960
  • A Local Storm. Iowa City, IA: Stone Wall Press, 1963.
  • Night Light. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967
    • revised edition. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1981.
  • Four Poets (with Tom McAfee, Donald Drummond, and R.P. Dickey) Pella, IA: Central College of Pella, 1968.
  • Sixteen Poems. Iowa City, IA: Stone Wall Press, 1970.
  • From a Notebook. Iowa City, IA: Seamark Press, 1971.
  • Departures. New York: Atheneum, 1973.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Atheneum, 1979.
  • Tremayne. Iowa City, IA: Windhover Press, 1984.
  • New and Selected Poems. new York: Knopf, 1995.
  • Poems to Go. New York: Knopf, 1995.
  • Orpheus Hesitated beside the Black River: Poems, 1952-1997. London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1998.
  • Collected Poems. New York: Knopf, 2004.


  • Platonic Scripts (essays). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1984.
  • Oblivion: On writers and writing. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 1998.

Collected editionsEdit

  • The Sunset Maker: Poems, stories, a memoir. New York: Atheneum, 1987.
  • A Donald Justice Reader: Selected poetry and prose. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1991.


  • Eugène Guillevic, L'Homme qui se ferme / The Man Closing Up. Iowa City, IA: Stone Wall Press, 1973.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[9]


  • The Young God: A vaudeville (opera by Edward Miller), 1969.[9]
  • The Death of Lincoln: an opera by Edwin London on an original libretto by Donald Justice. A. Thomas Taylor, 1988.[9]

Audio / videoEdit

Donald Justice, "There Is A Gold Light In Certain Old Paintings01:40

Donald Justice, "There Is A Gold Light In Certain Old Paintings."

  • Donald Justice I (cassette). Kansas City, MO: New Letters, 1980.
  • Donald Justice: A reading April 29, 1981. Tucson, AZ: Poetry Center, 1981.
  • Donald Justice (CD, cassette). New York: Academy of American Poets, 1982.
  • Childhood, and other poems (cassette). Washington, DC: Watershed Foundation, 1984.
  • Donald Justice Reading (CD). Buffalo, NY: Poetry Collection, University at Buffalo, 1987.
  • Donald Justice II (cassette). Kansas City, MO: University of Misouri, [199-?]
  • In Pursuit of the Ideal (CD). Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa, 2005.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. Date of birth taken from the Social Security Death Index.
  2. "Notable University of Iowa Alums". University of Iowa. 
  3. Saxon, Wolfgang (August 10, 2004). "Donald Justice, 78, a Poet Admired for Precise Beauty". The New York Times. 
  4. Rosenheim, Andrew (August 18, 2004). "Donald Justice: Award-winning poet revered by his peers and influential to a wide range of younger writers". The Independent. 
  5. Bell, Marvin (Winter, 2004/2005). "A Garland for Donald Justice: A Reminiscence". The Iowa Review 34 (3): 177–178. 
  6. Richards, Tad (2005). "Donald Justice," Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry (Greenwood Press). ISBN 978-0313323812. Online version retrieved November 9, 2007.
  7. Orr, David (August 29, 2004). "'Collected Poems': The Ironist of Nostalgia". The New York Times. 
  8. Gioia, Dana and Logan, William (1998). Certain Solitudes: On The Poetry of Donald Justice (University of Arkansas Press). ISBN 978-1557284754 .
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Donald Justice 1925-2004, Poetry Foundation, Web, Oct. 19, 2012.
  10. Search results = au:Donald Justice + audiobook, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Sep. 18, 2016.

External linksEdit

Audio /video
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