Whittemore, (Edward) Reed, (Jr.) 1919-
WHITTEMORE, (Edward) Reed, (Jr.) 1919-
PERSONAL: Born September 11, 1919, in New Haven, CT; son of Edward Reed (a doctor) and Margaret (Carr) Whittemore; married Helen Lundeen, October 3, 1952; children: Catherine, Edward, John, and Margaret. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1941; Princeton University, additional study, 1945-46.
ADDRESSES: Home—4526 Albion Rd., College Park, MD. 20740. Office—English Department, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.
CAREER: Poet, literary critic, biographer, essayist, short story writer. Furioso (literary quarterly), editor, 1939-53; Carleton College, Northfield, MN, professor of English, 1947-66, chair of department, 1962-64, editor, Carleton Miscellany (literary quarterly), 1960-64; University of Maryland, College Park, professor of English, 1967-84, professor emeritus, 1984—; NewRepublic, Washington, DC, literary editor, 1969-73; Delos (magazine), College Park, MD, editor, 1988-92. Library of Congress, consultant in poetry, 1964-65, honorary consultant in American letters, 1968-71, interim consultant, 1984-85; Bain-Swiggett lecturer, Princeton University, 1967. Former judge, National Book Awards. Program associate for National Institute of Public Affairs, 1966-68; director of Association of Literary Magazines of America. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1941-45; became major; awarded Bronze star.
MEMBER: National Academy of Arts and Sciences.
AWARDS, HONORS: Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, Poetry magazine, 1954; Emily Clark Balch Prize, Virginia Quarterly Review, 1962, for "The Music of Driftwood"; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1968-69; National Council on the Arts Award, 1969, for lifelong contribution to American letters; American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal, 1970; Litt.D., Carleton College, 1971; Poet Laureate of Maryland, 1985-88.
Heroes and Heroines, Reynal (New York, NY), 1946.
An American Takes a Walk, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1956.
The Boy from Iowa, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1962.
Return, Alpheus: A Poem for the Literary Elders ofPhi Beta Kappa, King & Queen Press (Williamsburg, VA), 1965.
Poems, New and Selected, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1968.
Fifty Poems Fifty, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1970.
The Mother's Breast and the Father's House, Houghton (New York, NY), 1974.
The Feel of Rock: Poems of Three Decades, Dryad Press (Washington, DC), 1982.
The Past, the Future, the Present: Poems Selected andNew, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AK), 1990.
(Editor) Robert Browning, Dell (New York, NY), 1960.
The Fascination of the Abomination (poems, stories, and essays), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1963.
Little Magazines (pamphlet), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1963.
Ways of Misunderstanding Poetry (lecture), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1965.
From Zero to the Absolute (essays), Crown (New York, NY), 1968.
The Poet as Journalist: Life at the New Republic, New Republic Book (Washington, DC), 1976.
A Whittemore Miscellany (sound recording), Watershed Intermedia (Washington, DC), 1977.
Pure Lives: The Early Biographers, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1988.
Whole Lives: Shapers of Modern Biography, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
Six Literary Lives: The Shared Impiety of Adams, London, Sinclair, Williams, Dos Passos, and Tate, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1993.
Also contributor to periodicals including, New Republic, Nation, New Yorker, Saturday Review, Kenyon Review, Esquire, and Yale Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Saturday Review critic Lewis Turco stated that Reed Whittemore "has been one of the more influential poets of his generation.... Early in his career he began to prove . . . that the best qualities of prose may be a fit vehicle for a new poetry." Expressing his opinion of Whittemore's literary talents, James Dickey wrote in Poetry that "as a poet with certain very obvious and amusing gifts, Reed Whittemore is almost everyone's favorite. Certainly he is one of mine. Yet there are dangerous favorites and inconsequential favorites and favorites like pleasant diseases. What of Whittemore? He is as wittily cultural as they come, he has read more than any . . . man anybody knows, has been all kinds of places, yet shuffles along in an old pair of tennis shoes and khaki pants, with his hands in his pockets."
A reviewer in Choice suggested two reasons for Whittemore's popularity: Open and free flowing style and a sense of humor that reflects itself in his poetry. The reviewer commented, "Whittemore has gone even further . . . in writing extraordinarily colloquial verse, very open and free flowing. He is also concerned with the sound of his verse. He uses end and internal rhyme, for example, with highly amusing and often subtle results. He skillfully organizes and structures his poems on the basis of line length, yet he avoids relying on visuality for understanding. In the longer poems, Whittemore occasionally tends to become prosy and oracular as if the urge to preach has overcome his usual fleet-footedness in verse. Although in technique he is comparable to such poets as Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and the British Ted Hughes, his skill in truly humorous verse sets him apart." J. T. Demos similarly commented in Library Journal that "Whittemore has the saving face of humor.... Being middle-aged and academic, Whittemore fights both labels as best he can, and then succumbs. When he is at least experimental and most aware of himself he can be charming as so few middle-aged academic poets really are."
Whittemore expresses his own feelings on poetry in his essay in "Poets on Poetry." As he once commented, "I think of poetry as a thing of the mind and tend to judge it, at least in part, by the qualities of mind it displays....The properties of mind I most admire are the daytime properties—those that get us to the store or shop and back, and put us on the radio discussing poetry or arguing about communism and democracy. Most of my poems, therefore, tend to deal primarily with the daytime part of the mind, that is, the prosaic part; only occasionally do they deal directly with the nighttime self."
On the subject of the length of his poetry, Whittemore once stated: "I have been impressed by the insufficiencies of the short-poem art for about twenty-five years; yet I have gone on writing short poems, and I suspect that my reputation as a poet, if I have any, is almost entirely based on a few short poems. I find the genre a congenial one in which to deal with my own insufficiencies, among which is my own rational incapacity to work things out, order them logically, on a big scale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1975.
Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Modern American Literature, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Nemerov, Howard, editor, Poets on Poetry, Basic Books, 1966.
Choice, May, 1975.
Library Journal, June 1, 1970.
New Leader, December 4, 1967.
New York Times Book Review, June 2, 1963.
Poetry, November, 1956.
Saturday Review, June 8, 1963; October 14, 1967.
Yale Review, winter, 1968.*