Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Richard Wilbur to Visit PA

Richard Wilbur, former Poet Laureate of the United States and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is scheduled to visit Phillips Academy for a poetry reading and book signing this Friday at 7 p.m. Kevin O’Connor, Instructor in English, invited Mr. Wilbur on behalf of The Sandra Isham Vreeland Fund, which was formed in 1997 to encourage students and faculty to write their own poetry. Mr. Wilbur will hold a writing class on Friday for Andover’s creative writing students and any other interested students. He will share his literary skills, which have prompted many to compare him to another great American poet, Robert Frost, who also visited PA in the 1960s. Mr. Wilbur was born in New York City in 1921, and acquired a love of writing at an early age. He studied at Amherst College where he served as Chairman of the school’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. In 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought in World War II. Before his deployment he married Mary Charlotte Hayes Ward, with whom he has four children. After his time in the military, Mr. Wilbur enrolled in graduate school at Harvard University. After graduating from Harvard in 1947, he published his first book, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems. Mr. Wilbur remained at Harvard for a few more years as a member of Society of Fellows, created to give exceptional students an opportunity to pursue their interestes without any requirements for three years. Mr. Wilbur is also famous for writing reflective and optimistic poetry during the Vietnam War. At the time, however, some criticized his work as too formal and impersonal to characterize a time of cultural strife and civil unrest. Yet this same formal tone distinguishes him from his contemporaries. Mr. Wilbur spent the majority of his teaching career at Wesleyan University. During his 20 years there he founded the Wesleyan University Press poetry series, a set of books which became renowned for featuring both amateur and experienced poets. He then spent 10 years as a Writer-in-Residence at Smith College. Mr. Wilbur now educates students through special visits, like the one this Friday. He was a close friend to Dudley Fitts, former Instructor in English here at PA as well as a renowned translator and poet. Mr. Wilbur won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for Things of This World and his second in 1988 for New and Collected Poems. Wilbur has won countless other awards including the National Book Award for Poetry and many honorary degrees. On May 25, 2006, Wilbur will receive $100,000 for winning the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, which has been given to esteemed American poets since 1986.