Mona Van Duyn lg

Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004), circa 1993. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Mona Jane Van Duyn (May 9, 1921 – December 2, 2004) was an American poet. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1992.[1]


Van Duyn was born in Waterloo, Iowa. She grew up in the small town of Eldora, Iowa (pop. 3,200), where she read voraciously in the town library and wrote poems secretly in notebooks from her grade school years to her high school years. Van Duyn earned a B.A. degree from Iowa State Teachers College in 1942, and an M.A. from the State University of Iowa in 1943, the year she married Jarvis Thurston. She and Thurston studied in the Ph.D. program at Iowa. In 1946 she was hired as an instructor at the University of Louisville when her husband became an assistant professor there. Together they began Perspective: A Quarterly of Literature in 1947 and shifted that journal to Washington University in St. Louis when they moved there in 1950. Van Duyn was a lecturer in the University College adult education program until her retirement in 1990. In 1983, a year after she had published her fifth book of poems, she was named an adjunct Professor in the English Department and became the "Visiting Hurst Professor" in 1987, the year she was invited to be a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Van Duyn was a friend of poet James Merrill and was instrumental in securing his papers for the Washington University Special Collections in the mid 1960s. She died of bone cancer at her home in University City, Missouri, on December 2, 2004, aged 83.[2]


Her views of love and marriage ranged from the scathing to the optimistic. In "What I Want to Say", she wrote of love:

It is the absolute narrowing of possibilities
and everyone, down to the last man
dreads it

But in "Late Loving", she wrote:

Love is finding the familiar dear

A recent Collected Poems, If It Be Not I (1992) included four volumes that had appeared since her first collected poems. It was published simultaneously with a new collection of poetry, Firefall.


Van Duyn won every major U.S. prize for poetry, including the National Book Award (1971), the Bollingen Prize (1971), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (1989), and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1991. She was the U.S. Poet Laureate between 1992 and 1993. Despite her accolades, her career fluctuated between praise and obscurity.

Van Duyn won the National Book Award for poetry in 1971 for To See, To Take, a collection of poems that gathered together three previous books and some uncollected work. In 1981 she became a fellow in the Academy of American Poets and then, in 1985, one of the twelve Chancellors who serve for life.

Her 1990 book Near Changes won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1991.

In 1993 she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.



  • Valentines to the Wide World. New Rochelle, NY: Cummington Publishing, 1959.
  • A Time of Bees. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1964.
  • To See, to Take. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
  • Bedtime Stories. Woodstock, NY: Ceres Press, 1972.
  • Merciful Disguises: Poems published and unpublished (includes Valentines to the Wide World, A Time of Bees, To See, to Take, & Bedtime Stories). New York, NY: Atheneum, 1973.
  • Letters from a Father, and Other Poems. New York: Atheneum, 1982.
  • Near Changes. New York: Knopf, 1990.
  • Lives and Deaths of the Poets and Non-Poets. privately published, 1991.
  • If It Be Not I: Collected poems (includes Valentines to the World, A Time of Bees, To See, to Take, Bedtime Stories, Merciful Disguises, and Letters from a Father, and ther poems). New York: Knopf, 1992.
  • Firefall. New York: Knopf, 1992.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Knopf, 2002.


  • Matters of Poetry. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1993.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1991-2000". Library of Congress. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. Famous Iowans: Van Duyn, Mona, Des Moines Register, Mar. 11, 2006,, Web, May 16, 2010.
  3. Mona Van Duyn 1921-2004, Poetry Foundation, Web, Jan. 15, 2012.

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. (view article). (view authors).
This page uses content from Wikinfo . The original article was at Wikinfo:Mona Van Duyn.
The list of authors can be seen in the (view authors). page history. The text of this Wikinfo article is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.