Edwin Arlington Robinson was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. His early works, set in the fictitious Tilbury Town, expressed the poet’s vision of “the American Dream gone awry.” Born in 1869 and educated at Harvard, Robinson drew inspiration from his own bleak and unhappy childhood in Gardiner, Maine. His poems affirmed life’s meaning despite its profoundly dark side — what he called “the black and awful chaos of the night.” Breaking with the romantic tradition, Robinson was a “people poet,” writing almost exclusively about human beings and human relationships. His first book, The Torrent and the Night Before, was privately printed and released in 1896. The Children of the Night (1897) and The Town Down the River (1910), gained him a following, but it was the publication of Captain Craig and Other Poems (1902) that brought the admiration of President Theodore Roosevelt who offered Robinson a position with the U.S. Customs House, which he held from 1905 to 1910. The publication of The Man Against the Sky (1916) earned Robinson his first critical acclaim.
In later years, he turned to longer verse, publishing a trilogy based on Arthurian legends. Robinson wrote many poems at the MacDowell, including his Pulitzer Prize winning poem “Tristram,” published in 1927. His first residency was in 1911 and he came every year thereafter until his death. “MacDowell knew what he was about,” Robinson wrote to a friend. “One summer of it in one of the isolated studios with an open wood fire, would undo you for life.” The “grand old man” of the Colony, Robinson was a mentor to younger Fellows, especially aspiring poets. Late in life Marian MacDowell confided, “If I had never done anything else than give Edwin Arlington Robinson a place to work for twenty years….I would feel that that the colony has been worthwhile.” Robinson, who never married, died in New York on April 6, 1935.