Robert Penn Warren: Contribution as American Poet

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      Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), was a great poet, novelist and a critic. He was one of the southern Fugitives who enjoyed a fruitful career ruining through most of the 20th century. He showed a belonging concern with democratic values as they appeared within historical context. He was born in Guthrie, Ka lucky, and educated at Vanderbilt, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale, of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar. He was a member of the Fugitives. He found and helped to find and edit the group of magazines. His first book was a biography of John Brown. In 1930, he contributed to Southern Agrarian manifestoes, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. His first volume of poetry Thirty-Six Poems appeared in 1930. It was followed by Selected Poems 1923-1943 (1944).

      The next period of twenty years was of utmost importance. Penn distinguished himself in poetry, fiction and criticism. His poetry and fiction are both marked by a brooding, philosophical intelligence, and he wrote perceptively on writers with similar cast of mind.

      Robert Penn fiction also deals with Southern history and generally southern settings. Night Rider (1939) and At Heaven’s Gate (1943) were followed by his best-known novel All King’s Men (1946) which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. It tells the story of Willie Stark (apparently based on Governor Fluey Long of Louisiana) a corrupt politician who became the governor of southern state and dies a tragic death. The most enduring of his novels is All the King’s Men (1946), focusing on the darker implications of the American dream - as revealed in this thinly veiled account of the career of a flamboyant and sinister southern senator, Huey Long. His later novels include World Enough and Time (1950), Bond of Angels (1955), a tragedy of miscegenation, The Cave (1959), Wilderness: A Tale of Civil War (1961), Flood: A Romance of Our Times (1964), Meet me in the Green Glen (1971) and A Place to Come To (1977).

      Penn Warren also wrote many works of non-fiction-Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South (1956), Remember the Alamo (1958), Who Speaks for the Negroes? (1965), Homage to Theodore Dreiser (1971), Democracy and Poetry: A Lecture (1975), and Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back(1980). Selected essays (1958) was superseded by New and Selected Essays (1989). With Cleanth Brooks, he edited the critical anthologies in collaboration: Understanding Poetry, and Understanding Fiction. He also got award Shelley Memorial Award for poetry, the Bollinger Prize, and the Presidential Medal for Freedom. He became the Poet Laureate of the USA in 1986.

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