Ben Belitt Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Ben Belitt was born in New York City in 1911, the son of a teacher, Lewis Belitt, and Ida Lewitt Belitt. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at the University of Virginia and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Belitt joined the faculty of Bennington College (Vermont) in 1938; he remained on Bennington’s faculty and continued to teach on an occasional basis and to live in Bennington until his death in 2003. He preferred a provincial to an urban setting for what he called his “obsessional” writing habits. His poems and translations, however, reveal the least provincial of men. In 1936 and 1937, while still working on a doctoral degree (which he never finished) at the University of Virginia, he served as an assistant literary editor of The Nation, and late in World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Department of Historical Films.

Belitt was orphaned early in life after the death of his father and subsequent abandonment by his mother. He and his sisters returned to their mother after her remarriage, but Belitt felt permanently isolated where family was concerned. He was not a confessional sort of poet, but this experience and its consequences are presented in his poem “Orphaning” and elsewhere.