Richard Wilbur. Courtesy the Library of Congress.

Richard Wilbur
Born Richard Purdy Wilbur
March Template:Birthdate and age
New York City,
New York, United States
Occupation Poet
Nationality American
Alma mater Amherst College (1942)
Harvard University (1947)
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1957, 1989)
Spouse(s) Mary Charlotte Hayes Ward (1922-2007)
Children Ellen Dickinson, Christopher Hayes, Nathan Lord, Aaron Hammond

Richard Purdy Wilbur (born March 1, 1921) is an American poet and translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.[1]



Wilbur was born in New York City and grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey.[2] When only 8 years old, Wilbur published his first poem in John Martin's Magazine.

He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and then served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.


After the Army and graduate school at Harvard University, Wilbur taught at Wesleyan University for two decades and at Smith College for another decade. At Wesleyan he was instrumental in founding the award-winning poetry series of the Wesleyan University Press.[3][4] He is currently teaching at Amherst College.[5] He married Charlotte Hayes Ward in 1942 after his graduation from Amherst; she was a student at nearby Smith College.

His first book, The Beautiful Changes and other poems, appeared in 1947. Since then he has published several volumes of poetry, including New and Collected Poems (Faber, 1989). Wilbur is also a translator, specializing in the 17th- century French comedies of Moliere and the dramas of Jean Racine. His translation of Tartuffe has become the standard English version of the play, and has been presented on television twice. (A 1978 production is available on DVD.)


Continuing the tradition of Robert Frost and W.H. Auden, Wilbur's poetry finds illumination in everyday experiences. Less well-known is Wilbur's foray into lyric writing. He provided lyrics to several songs in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical, Candide, including the famous "Glitter and Be Gay" and "Make Our Garden Grow." He has also produced several unpublished works such as "The Wing" and "To Beatrice".


His honors include two Pulitzer Prizes in Poetry (in 1957 and 1989), the 1983 Drama Desk Special Award for his translation of The Misanthrope, the National Book Award in 1957, the Edna St Vincent Millay award, the Bollingen Prize in 1971, and the Chevalier, Ordre National des Palmes Academiques. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959.[6]

In 1987 Wilbur became the second poet, after Robert Penn Warren, to be named U.S. Poet Laureate after the position's title was changed from Poetry Consultant. In 1989 he won a second Pulitzer, for his New and Collected Poems.

On October 14, 1994, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.[7]

In 2006, Wilbur won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 2010 he won the National Translation Award for the translation of The Theatre of Illusion by Pierre Corneille.



  • The Beautiful Changes, and other poems. Reynal, 1947.
  • Ceremony, and other poems. Boston: Harcourt, 1950.
  • A Bestiary. New York: printed at the Spiral Press for Pantheon Books, 1955.
  • Things of This World. Boston: Harcourt, 1956.
  • Poems, 1943-1956. London: Faber, 1957.
  • Advice to a Prophet, and other poems. Boston: Harcourt, 1961.
  • Walking to Sleep: New poems and translations. Boston: Harcourt, 1969.
  • The Mind-Reader: New poems. Boston: Harcourt, 1976.
  • New and Collected Poems. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.
  • Mayflies: New poems and translations. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 2000)
  • Collected Poems, 1943-2004. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2004.
  • Anterooms: New poems and translations. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.[8]


  • Responses: Prose pieces, 1953-1976. Harcourt, 1976.
  • The Catbird's Song: Prose pieces, 1963-1995. Harcourt, 1997.

Translated Edit

  • Moliere, The Misanthrope: Comedy in five acts, 1666 (produced in Cambridge, MA, by the Poet’s Theatre, October 25, 1955; produced off-Broadway at Theatre East, November 12, 1956). Harcourt, 1955.
  • (Lyricist with John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, and Leonard Bernstein) Voltaire, Candide: A comic operetta based on Voltaire’s satire (musical; based on adaptation by Lillian Hellman; music by Leonard Bernstein; produced on Broadway at Martin Beck Theatre, December 1, 1956; produced on the West End at Saville Theatre, April 30, 1959). New York: Random House, 1957.
  • Philippe de Thaun, The Pelican, from a Bestiary of 1120 (poem). privately printed, 1963.
  • Moliere, Tartuffe: Comedy in five acts, 1669 (produced in Milwaukee, WI, at Fred Miller Theatre, January, 1964; produced on Broadway at ANTA Theatre, January 14, 1965). Harcourt, 1963.
  • Moliere, The Misanthrope / Tartuffe. Harcourt, 1965.
  • Moliere, The School for Wives: Comedy in five acts, 1662 (produced on Broadway at Lyceum Theatre, February 16, 1971 ). Harcourt, 1971.
  • Moliere, The Learned Ladies: Comedy in five acts, 1672 (produced in Williamstown, MA, at the Williamstown Festival Theatre, 1977). Harcourt, 1978.
  • Jean Racine, Andromache: Tragedy in five acts, 1667. Harcourt, 1982.
  • Moliere, Four comedies. Harcourt, 1982.
  • The Whale, and other uncollected translations. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions , 1982.
  • Racine, Phaedra. Harcourt, 1986.
  • Moliere, The School for Husbands. Harcourt, 1992.
  • Moliere, The Imaginary Cuckold. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1993.
  • Moliere, The School for Husbands / Sganarelle; or, The imaginary cuckold. Harcourt, 1994.
  • Moliere, Amphitryon. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1995.
  • Baudelaire, 1854. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1997.
  • Moliere, Don Juan. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1998; published as Don Juan: Comedy in five acts, 1665. Harcourt, 2001.

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

See alsoEdit


  1. "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1981-1990". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. "Celebrate the life and work of poet Richard Wilbur", The Berkshire Eagle, June 24, 2005. The son of a painter, "Wilbur spent his childhood in North Caldwell..."
  6. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter W". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  7. *The White House - Office of the Press Secretary
  8. [Anterooms: New Poems and Translations (Google eBook)], Google Books, Web, June 26, 2012.
  9. Richard Wilbur b.1921, Poetry Foundation, Web, June 26, 2012.

External linksEdit

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