As his poetry suggests, Philip Edmund Booth was a New Englander, a man of Down East sensibilities and humor. Born in 1925 in Hanover, New Hampshire, to a Dartmouth English professor, and having grown up both in New Hampshire and in Maine, he settled in the white-clapboard, black-shuttered, 130-year-old house in Castine, Maine, which belonged to his family for five generations. Thomas Jefferson had appointed Booth’s maternal great-great-grandfather to serve as customs collector in Castine two hundred years before, and the Greek Revival house on Main Street where the poet would reside belonged to his mother’s family for nearly a century.
Booth received his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire; there, as a freshman in a noncredit seminar during the summer of 1943, he met Robert Frost, who acted as an occasional grandfather for Booth’s three daughters during the early years of his marriage (in 1946, to Margaret Tillman). Booth graduated from Dartmouth in 1947, taught at Bowdoin College in Maine in 1949, and then stopped teaching for a while. He hoped to be a novelist and, to pay the bills for the next four years, worked in both Vermont and New Hampshire at jobs that included a stint in Dartmouth’s admissions office, work as a traveling ski-book salesperson, and some time in a carpentry shop. After deciding that he was not a good storyteller but rather a good wordsmith, Booth turned his attention to writing poetry. He earned his master’s degree at Syracuse University, and for the next twenty-five years, he served as senior poet in the creative writing program there. During these years he edited several volumes of Syracuse Poems.
Booth published poetry in many leading literary magazines and journals, including Harper’s, Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, and Saturday Review. He developed Alzheimer’s disease and died in Hanover on July 2, 2007.