Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Born and reared in Miami, Donald Rodney Justice graduated from the University of Miami in 1945. He received an M.A. degree from the University of North Carolina in 1947 and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1954. From 1948 to 1949, he attended Stanford University to study with Yvor Winters. Among his other teachers were Karl Shapiro, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman. He married Jean Ross in 1947 and had one son.
Justice taught at various universities, including Syracuse; the University of California, Irvine; Princeton; and the Universities of Iowa and Virginia. He joined the faculty of the University of Florida at Gainesville in 1982, where he taught until 1992, when he retired from teaching. Justice died in 2004 in Iowa City.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Growing up in Miami, Donald Rodney Justice studied piano and then composition. After graduation from the University of Miami, he concentrated on literature and writing at the universities of North Carolina, Stanford, and Iowa. He taught for many years in the graduate writing programs of Iowa, Syracuse, and Florida.
Justice describes his early years in the poem “Childhood,” which was first published with marginalia on facing pages. In New and Selected Poems those notes appear at the end of the book, whereby the poem loses the antiphonal effect of a line such as “Forlorn suburbs, but with golden names!” being answered by “Sunny Isles, Golden Glades, Buena Vista, Opa-Locka, etc.” The poem is dedicated “to the poets of a mythical childhood,” and this mythical tonality is matched by orchestral richness in the language and cinematic sweep in the imagery. It begins with a child’s game of spinning a globe to see where one’s finger lands, after which the poem points to a particular place and time (Miami in the thirties), with images of reading comics, playing by a lily pond, going to the movies, getting a haircut, shopping in a department store, and looking through trays of eyeglasses at Woolworth’s. Justice’s “osteomyelitis-anesthesias,” noted in a gloss, becomes an image within the poem: “on my knee a small red...
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Donald Rodney Justice was born in Miami, Florida, in 1925 to Vascoe J., a carpenter, and Mary Ethel Cook Justice, both of whom had moved to Florida from Georgia in the early 1920s. His mother encouraged Justice’s interest in the arts early in his life, providing him with piano lessons, and Justice has remained passionate about music and art throughout his life. In Miami, Justice studied with composer Carl Ruggles, one of the first professional artists he ever met, and poet George Marion O’Donnell, who taught him how to read poets such as Thomas Hardy in a new way. After earning his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Miami, Justice moved to New York City for a year before resuming his studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a master’s degree in 1947. Although enrolled in Stanford’s doctoral program for a year, Justice felt the pace of the program was too slow. He left to study in the Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he received his Ph. D. in 1954. As student and teacher, Justice has worked with many well-known writers including Yvor Winters, Robert Lowell, William Logan, Karl Shapiro, and Charles Wright. One of his students at Iowa, Mark Strand, to whom Justice dedicates “Incident in a Rose Garden,” was poet laureate for the United States from 1990 to 1992.
Justice is known as a technician of poetry, an accomplished technician who describes himself as “a rationalist...
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