Harriet Monroe 1920

Harriet Monroe (1860-1936) in 1920. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Harriet Monroe (23 December 1860 - 26 September 1936) was an American poet and editor.[1] She is best known as the founding publisher and long-time editor of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, which made its debut in 1912. As a supporter of the poets Ezra Pound, H.D., T.S. Eliot , William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and others, she played an important role in the development of modern poetry. Because she was a long time correspondent of the poets she supported, her letters provide a wealth of information on their thoughts and motives.


Monroe was born in Chicago, Illinois. She honed her love of literature early, in her father's library. In her autobiography, A Poet's Life: Seventy years in a changing world, published two years after her death, Monroe recalls: "I started in early with Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, with Dickens and Thackeray; and always the book-lined library gave me a friendly assurance of companionship with lively and interesting people, gave me friends of the spirit to ease my loneliness."[2]

She graduated from the Visitation Academy of Georgetown, D.C., in 1879. She proclaimed after graduation her determination to become "great and famous" as a poet or playwright. In the Dictionary of Literary Biography Judith Paterson quoted her as saying, "I cannot remember when to die without leaving some memorable record did not seem to me a calamity too terrible to be borne."[3] She afterward devoted herself to literary work. Alhough Century magazine published her poem, "With a Copy of Shelley," in 1889, she quickly became disillusioned over the limited earnings available for poets, saying: "The minor painter or sculptor was honored with large annual awards in our greatest cities, while the minor poet was a joke of the paragraphers, subject to the popular prejudice that his art thrived best on starvation in a garret."[3]

She became a freelance correspondent to the Chicago Tribune, and was commissioned to write a commemorative ode for the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. She sued the New York World for publishing the poem without her consent and receoved $5,000 in a settlement.[4]

Poetry: A Magazine of VerseEdit

Poetry cover1

First issue of Poetry, 1912.

Main article: Poetry (magazine)

With help from publisher Hobart Chatfield-Taylo, Monroe convinced one hundred prominent Chicago business leaders to sponsor a literary magazine by each committing to fifty dollars a year for a five-year subscription. The $5,000 allowed her to launch Poetry: A Magazine of Verse on September 23, 1912, upholding its promise to contributors of adequate payment for all published work.[4]

Monroe was editor for its first two years without salary, while simultaneously working as an art critic for the Chicago Tribune. By 1914 the magazine work became too much for her to accomplish while working other jobs, so she resigned from the Tribune and accepted a salary of $50 per month from the magazine. For more than 10 years she maintained herself on this stipend, raising it to $100 per month in 1925.[4]

She continued editing the magazine until she died in Arequipa, Peru, while on her way to climb Macchu Picchu.[4]

Monroe was a member of the Eagle's Nest Art Colony in Ogle County, Illinois, and is mentioned in Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.


The Poetry Foundation commemorates her through its "Harriet" blog,[5] and through the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute.[6]

She is also commemorated by the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Collection at the University of Chicago.[7]








Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[4]

See alsoEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 Harriet Monroe, NNDB, Web, Nov. 13, 2012.
  2. Monroe, Harriet (1938). A Poet's Life: Seventy Years in a Changing World. New York: Macmillan. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Paterson, Judith (1990). "Harriet Monroe," in Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Magazine Journalists, 1900-1960. Detroit: Gale. pp. 226–234. ISBN 0810345714. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Harriet Monroe 1860-1936, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 13, 2012.
  5. About Harriet, Harriet, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 123, 2012.
  6. Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 13, 2012.
  7. Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Collection, University of Chicago Library, University of Chicago, Web, Nov. 13, 2012.
  8. Ode for the Opening of the World's Fair Held at Chicago, 1892 (1892), Internet Archive. Web, Dec. 20, 2014.

External linksEdit

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