Adams, Léonie Fuller

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ADAMS, Léonie Fuller

Born 9 December 1899, Brooklyn, New York; died 27 January 1988

Daughter of Charles F. and Henrietta Rozier Adams; married William Troy, 1933

Léonie Fuller Adams' father taught her to be an agnostic and to love poetry. From her mother, she inherited a sense of mystery, primitivism, and faith that led eventually to her joining the Roman Catholic church. Her early life, she felt, was lonely, although she tended to develop deep, mystical relationships with school friends. Both teachers and parents encouraged Adams to write; by a fairly early age she had composed a great deal of poetry.

At Barnard College, from which she graduated in 1922, Adams continued her study of composition and poetry. Friends and professors praised her writing and one, Marian Smith, passed on some of Adams' poems to Louis Untermeyer, who arranged to have them published. For a time after graduation, Adams lived and wrote in New York City and, in 1928 she received a two-year Guggenheim fellowship for study in Europe. She then taught in various capacities at several American colleges and universities, including New York University (1930-32, 1951-52), Bennington (1935-37, 1942-45), and Columbia (1947-68). She also received a Fulbright Fellowship for teaching in France (1955-56) and from 1948-49 was a consultant to the Library of Congress. She has served on numerous boards and councils for the arts and has received several awards for her writing.

Adams' first book of poetry, Those Not Elect (1925), contains poems from her undergraduate days at Barnard. For the most part, they optimistically celebrate natural mysteries and joyous life. Most critics see reflected in these poems and in Adams' later work her interest in the Elizabethan and the metaphysical poets. High Falcon (1929, reprinted in 1983) Adams' second volume, reveals her special connection with Louise Bogan, with whom she later shared the Bollingen Prize (1954). Her focus on natural imagery is especially sharp in High Falcon and has been fruitfully compared to poetry of the metaphysics.

Poems: A Selection, appeared in 1954 (reprinted in 1959) and was described by Wallace Fowlie in Commonweal as "a work of modest proportions but one of high significance in the history of American letters." Poems contains both a sampling from earlier volumes as well as new poems as rich and full as her earlier work. In 1940, Adams had written in Fred B. Millett's Contemporary American Authors, "I have been silent a long time because I am now grappling with the limitations of the lyric." Poems: A Selection, published 14 years later, proved that in the struggle, Adams—and her readers—eventually won.

Other Works:

Midsummer (1929). This Measure (1933). Lyrics of François Villon (edited and translated by Adams, 1933). Her Lullaby (1947). Léonie Adams Reading Her Poems (audio recording, 1947). Léonie Adams Reading Her Poems in the Recording Laboratory (audio recording, 1949). Léonie Adams Reading Her Poems in the Coolidge Auditorium (audio recording, 1949). Léonie Adams Reading Her Poems in New York City (audio recording, 1951). Enjoyment of Poetry: Survival of the Lyric (audio recording, 1963).


Bogan, L., Achievement in American Poetry (1950). Bonacci, B. B., "Image and Idea in the Poetry of Léonie Adams" (dissertation, 1977). Gregory, H., and M. Zaturenska, A History of American Poetry, 1900-1940 (1969). Ruihley, G. R., ed., An Anthology of Great U.S. Women Poets, 1850-1990: Temples and Palaces (1997). Tuthill, S., ed., Laurels: Eight Women Poets (1998). Untermeyer, L., Modern American Poetry (1962).

Reference Works:

Modern American Literature (1960-1969).

Other reference:

CW (26 Nov. 1954). Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (March 1930). Kresh, P., ed., Allen Tate, Léonie Adams, Yvor Winters, Oscar Williams, and Langston Hughes Reading Their Poems (audio recording, 1970). Muriel Rukeyser, Howard Baker, Léonie Adams, [and] Janet Baker Reading Their Own Poems (audiocassette, 1969).


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Adams, Léonie Fuller

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