Louis Simpson

Louis Simpson. Courtesy NNDB.

Louis Aston Marantz Simpson
Born 27, 1923(1923-Template:MONTHNUMBER-27)
Died 14, 2012(2012-Template:MONTHNUMBER-14) (aged 89)
Occupation Poet
Known for 1964 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for At the End of the Open Road.

Louis Aston Marantz Simpson (March 27, 1923 - September 14, 2012) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet.


Simpson was born in 1923 in Jamaica. His father was a lawyer of Scottish descent, and his mother Russian. At 17 he emigrated to the United States and began attending Columbia University, where he studied under Mark Van Doren.[1]

During World War II, from 1943 to 1945 he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and would fight in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Simpson was a runner for the company captain, which involved transporting orders from company headquarters to officers on the front line. His company was involved in a very bloody battle with German forces on the west bank of what is now the Carentan France Marina. Simpson wrote "Carentan", a poem about the experience where US troops were ambushed. In the Netherlands, he was involved in Market Garden and Opheusden fighting. At Veghel, his company suffered 21 killed in a brutal shelling while in the local church yard. At Bastogne, he endured bitter cold temperatures while the 101st Division was surrounded by enemy forces for days. After the end of the war he attended the University of Paris.[2]

His first book was The Arrivistes, published in 1949. It was hailed for its strong formal verse, but Simpson later moved away from the style of his early successes and embraced a spare brand of free verse. He received a Ph.D. from Columbia and taught there, as well as at the University of California, Berkeley, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Simpson lived on the north shore of Long Island, New York, near Stony Brook. He died on September 14, 2012.[3]


Simpson’s lifelong expatriate status influenced his poetry, and he often used the lives of ordinary Americans in order to critically investigate the myths the country tells itself. Although he occasionally revisite the West Indies of his childhood, he always kept one foot in his adopted country.

The outsider's perspective allowed him to confront "the terror and beauty of life with a wry sense of humor and a mysterious sense of fate," wrote Edward Hirsch of the Washington Post. Elsewhere Hirsch described Simpson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, At the End of the Open Road, as "a sustained meditation on the American character," noting, "The moral genius of this book is that it traverses the open road of American mythology and brings us back to ourselves; it sees us not as we wish to be but as we are."

Collected Poems (1988) and There You Are (1995) focus on the lives of everyday citizens, using simple diction and narratives to expose the bewildering reality of the American dream.

Poet Mark Jarman hailed Simpson as "a poet of the American character and vernacular."




  • The Arrivistes: Poems, 1940-49. Fine Editions, 1949.
  • Good News of Death, and other poems. New York: Scribner, 1955.
  • A Dream of Governors. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1959.
  • At the End of the Open Road. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1963.
  • Five American Poets (edited by Thom Gunn & Ted Hughes). London: Faber, 1963.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Harcourt, 1965.
  • Adventures of the Letter I. New York: [[Harper (publisher)|Harper, 1971.
  • Searching for the Ox. New York: Morrow, 1976.
  • Armidale. Rocheter, NY: BOA Editions, 1979.
  • Out of Season. Deerfield Press, 1979.
  • Caviare at the Funeral. Franklin Watts, 1980.
  • The Best Hour of the Night Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.
  • People Live Here: Selected poems, 1949-1983. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 1983.
  • Collected Poems. New York: Paragon House, 1988.
  • Wei Wei and Other Friends. Francestown, NH: Typographeum, 1990.
  • In the Room We Share. New York: Paragon House, 1990.
  • Jamaica Poems. Lewisburg, PA: Press of Appletree Alley, 1993.
  • There You Are: Poems. Brownsville, OR: Story Line, 1995.
  • The Owner of the House: New collected poems. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 2003.
  • Struggling Times. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 2009.
  • Voices in the Distance: Selected poems. Tarset, Northumberland, UK: Bloodaxe Books, 2010.


  • Riverside Drive. New York: Atheneum, 1962.


  • James Hogg: A Critical Study. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1962.
  • North of Jamaica (autobiography). New York: Harper, 1972
    • published in UK as Air with Armed Men. Lonon: London Magazine Editions, 1972.
  • Three on the Tower: The lives and works of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams. New York: Morrow, 1975.
  • A Revolution in Taste: Studies of Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell. New York: Macmillan, 1978 **published in UK as Studies of Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1979.
  • A Company of Poets. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1981.
  • The Character of the Poet. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1986.
  • Selected Prose. New York: Paragon House, 1989.
  • Ships Going into the Blue: Essays and notes on poetry. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994.
  • The King My Father's Wreck (memoir). Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1994.
  • There You Are: Poems. Brownsville, ON: Story Line Press, 1995.
  • The Owner of the House: New collected poems, 1940-2001. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 2003.


  • Modern Poets of France: A bilingual anthology. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1997.
  • François Villon, The Legacy & The Testament. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 2000.


  • The New Poets of England and America (edited with Donald Hall & Robert Pack). Meridian, 1957.
  • An Introduction to Poetry. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1967; 2nd edition, 1972.

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

See alsoEdit


  1. "Mark Van Doren", Columbia 250 - Columbians Ahead of Their Times Columbia University.
  2. "Louis Simpson," Academy of American Poets,, Web, Feb. 5, 2012.
  3. Mervin Rothstein, "Louis Simpson, Poet of Everyday Life, Dies at 89", New York Times, September 17, 2012. Web, Sep. 18, 2012.
  4. "Louis Simpson b. 1923, Poetry Foundation, Web, Feb. 17, 2015.

External linksEdit

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