Robert P.Tristram Coffin. Courtesy NNDB.

Robert P. Tristram Coffin
Born March 18, 1892
Brunswick, Maine, United States
Died January 20, 1955
Brunswick, Maine, United States
Occupation poet
Nationality United States American

Robert Peter Tristram Coffin (March 18, 1892 – January 20, 1955) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, and an academic.


A native of Brunswick, Maine, and descendant of one of the original purchasers of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, Robert P.T. Coffin graduated from Bowdoin College in 1915, and went on to earn graduate degrees from Princeton University (1916) and Oxford University (1920) (where he was a Rhodes Scholar). Hew was a a professor at Wells College (1921–1934) and Bowdoin College (1934–1955).

He is best known as the author of more than three dozen works of literature, poetry and history.

His early poetry was derivative of classical forms (e.g., sonnets) and in verbiage and subject archaic. His mature poetry is marked by clarity of subject and symbolism, scanning and usually rhyming lines, and New England locales, persons (particularly farmers, fishermen, young boys, and old ladies), themes, and sometimes vocabulary and accent-based rhymes. He also wrote romantic prose.[1]

Coffin dedicated his book "Captain Abby and Captain John" to his fellow Bowdoin College classmate L. Brooks Leavitt, "a fellow son of Maine." Coffin subsequently wrote his poem "Brooks Leavitt" as a eulogy to his old friend, which was read at Leavitt's funeral in Wilton, Maine. "Captain Abby and Captain John" is one of his most well-known works, and centers around the characters Abby and John Pennell, two ship captains. A shipbuilding district of Brunswick known as Pennellville provided the inspiration for this book.

Coffin died of a heart attack in Brunswick, Maine on January 20, 1955. He was 62 years old.


Coffin won the 1936 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 1935 collection Strange Holiness.

Other awards Coffin has won include Honorary Life Member, National Arts Club, 1931; Phi Beta Kappa Poet at Harvard, 1932; Gold Medal, National Honor Poet, 1935; and elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1946.[2]

There is a school in Brunswick, Maine named after him. Coffin School opened in 1955, in his honor.



  • May Day Pageant: Wells, 1922. Aurora, NY: Wells College Endowment Fund, 1922.
  • Christchurch: Poems. New York: T. Seltzer, 1924.
  • The Golden Falcon. New York: Macmillan, 1929.
  • The Yoke of Thunder. New York: Macmillan, 1932.
  • Ballads of Square-Toed Americans. New New York: Macmillan, 1933.
  • Strange Holiness. New York: Macmillan, 1935.
  • Saltwater Farm (illustrated by Julius J. Lankes). New York: Macmillan, 1937.
  • Maine Ballads. New York: Macmillan, 1938.
  • Collected Poems. New York: Macmillan, 1939.
  • There Will Be Bread and Love. New York: Macmillan, 1942.
  • Poems for a Son with Wings. New York: Macmillan, 1945.
  • People Behave Like Ballads. New York: Macmillan, 1946.
  • One-Horse Farm: Down-east georgics. New York: Macmillan, 1949.
  • Apples by Ocean. New York: Macmillan, 1955.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Macmillan, 1955.


  • Portrait of an American. New York: Macmillan, 1931.
  • An Attic Room. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1934.
  • Red Sky in the Morning. New York: Macmillan, 1935.
  • John Dawn. New York: Macmillan, 1936.
  • Thomas-Thomas-Ancil-Thomas. 1941.
  • Book of Uncles. New York: Macmillan, 1942.
  • Yankee Coast (with Peggy Coffin). New York: Macmillan, 1947.
  • One Horse Farm. New York: Macmillan, 1949.
  • On the Green Carpet. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1951.


  • Book of Crowns and Cottages. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1925.
  • Laud: Storm center of Stuart England. New York: Brentano's, 1930.
  • The Dukes of Buckingham: Playboys of the Stuart world. New York: Brentano's, 1931.
  • Portrait of an American. New York: Macmillan, 1931.
  • Lost Paradise: A boyhood on a Maine coast farm. New York: Macmillan, 1934.
  • The Kennebec: Cradle of Americans. New York: Farrar & Rinehart (Rivers of America Series), 1937.
  • New Poetry of New England: Frost and Robinson. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1938; New York: Russell & Russell, 1964.
  • Captain Abby and Captain John: An around-the-world biography. New York: Macmillan, 1939.
  • Christmas in Maine. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran, 1941; Augusta, ME: Maine State Museum, 1980.
  • The Substance that is Poetry. New York: Macmillan, 1942.
  • Primer for America. New York: Macmillan, 1943.
  • Mainstays of Maine. New York: Macmillan, 1944.
  • Maine Doings. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1950.
  • Sir Isaac Coffin, Bart., 1759-1839: Admiral and prophet. New York: Newcomen Society in America, 1951.


  • A Book of Seventeenth-Century Prose (edited with Alexander M. Witherspoon). New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1928.
  • Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry (with Alexander M. Witherspoon). New York, Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1946.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums (1970). Doris A. Isaacson. ed. Maine: A Guide 'Down East'. Rockland, Me: Courier-Gazette, Inc.. pp. 176–177. 
  2. Coffin, Robert, Maine: An encyclopedia. Web, June 7, 2014.
  3. Search results = au:Robert Coffin, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, June 7, 2014.

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