Carruth, Hayden 1921-2008

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Carruth, Hayden 1921-2008


See index for CA sketch: Born August 3, 1921, in Waterbury, CT; died September 29, 2008, in Munnsville, NY. Poet, publisher, magazine editor, educator, and author. Carruth's poetry enabled the reclusive author to offer to others a glimpse of the world as he saw it through the only means possible for him: the written word. For much of his life Carruth was unable to interact with society in a direct manner. A brief period as the editor of the magazine Poetry and an associate editor for the University of Chicago Press was followed by a nervous breakdown that confined him to a mental hospital for nearly two years. For the next twenty years, several of which he spent living in his parents' attic, Carruth's life played out through his solitary writings, which emerged quietly at the rate of approximately one book per year, usually in the form of a poetry collection. He moved from Illinois to a remote farm in northern Vermont, where manual labor sustained his spirit and the pace of the natural world inspired his muse. In the 1970s Carruth emerged from his self-imposed exile and began a series of teaching appointments throughout Vermont. He then taught at Syracuse University in New York from 1979 to 1991 and owned a small publishing enterprise, Crow's Mark Press. Carruth never conquered his social diffidence. He one told CA that he thought of "the whole human race," including himself, as "fundamentally alien," and his relationship with nature as one of alienation and fear. He believed that this state of tension, which permeated his life, also improved his poetry. Carruth was a prolific poet, with dozens of collections of varying size published between 1959 and 2006, but critical acclaim came late in life. He won the poetry award of the National Book Critics Circle in 1992 for Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 and received a National Book Award in 1996 for Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey. Carruth's poetry revealed a stunning intellect, his critics claimed, energetically exploring—or attacking—a sprawling array of topics in language that was verbally restrained and charged with passion at the same time. His earliest work was published in The Crow and the Heart, 1946-1959 (1959), his latest in Toward the Distant Islands: New and Selected Poems (2006). Carruth published miscellaneous nonfiction as well, including the memoir Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays (1998).



Carruth, Hayden, Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1998.

Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1981.


Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2008, sec. 1, p. 35.

Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2008, p. B8.

New York Times, October 1, 2008, p. A29; October 2, 2008, p. A4.