Discipline: Literature – poetry, Literature – translation

Richard Wilbur

Discipline: Literature – poetry, Literature – translation
Region: Belmont, MA

Edward MacDowell Medalist: 1992

Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) was an American poet and literary translator. One of the foremost poets of his generation, Wilbur’s work, composed primarily in traditional forms, was marked by its wit, charm, and gentlemanly elegance. Continuing the tradition of Robert Frost and W. H. Auden, Wilbur's poetry finds illumination in everyday experiences. Less well-known is Wilbur's foray into lyric writing. He provided lyrics to several songs in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical, Candide, including the famous "Glitter and Be Gay" and "Make Our Garden Grow." He also produced several unpublished works including "The Wing" and "To Beatrice."

He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. He attended graduate school at Harvard University. Wilbur taught at Wellesley College, then Wesleyan University for two decades, and at Smith College for another decade. At Wesleyan, he was instrumental in founding the award-winning poetry series of the University Press. He was also on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College.

In 1987 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice, in 1957 and again in 1989, among many other awards including the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1971 and the Frost Medal in 1996, to name a few.