Fred Chappell Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Fred Chappell is an award-winning poet whose works include the four-volume Midquest cycle and two collections of critical essays on poetry. He has written eight novels, including a quartet featuring the multigenerational Kirkman family: I Am One of You Forever (1985), Brighten the Corner Where You Are (1989), Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You (1996), and Look Back All the Green Valley (1999).


Fred Chappell has been honored with grants from both the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the Prix de Meilleur des Lettres Étranger by the French Academy in 1971 for his novel Dagon (1968), the Sir Walter Raleigh Award in 1973 for his novel The Gaudy Place (1972), and the Bollingen Prize in poetry from the Yale University Library in 1985. He received the Ragan-Rubin Award from the North Carolina English Teachers Association and the Thomas H. Carter award. He is also a recipient of the Ingersoll Foundation’s T. S. Eliot Prize for Creative Writing and a two-time recipient of the World Fantasy Award for short fiction (1992, 1994). His poetry is the subject of a tribute anthology of essays, Dream Garden: The Poetic Vision of Fred Chappell (1997).

Other literary forms

Fred Chappell (CHAH-pehl) first became known through his fiction. His third novel, Dagon (1968), received a great deal of attention, including winning the prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livres Étranger from the French Academy. He has also published collections of short stories. His tetralogy of novels—I Am One of You Forever (1985), Brighten the Corner Where You Are (1989), Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You (1996), and Look Back All the Green Valley (1999)—which focuses on the family of Jess Kirkman, a semi-autobiographical character, in many ways mirrors the four volumes of Midquest, his long poem. He also has published collections of essays on poetry and has written about poetry as a News and Observer book columnist.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Fred Chappell’s writing, particularly his poetry, is erudite and witty, yet the poems are accessible to the average reader because of his talent, humor, ability to express the profound in the colloquial, close observance of the physical as well as the spiritual world, and mastery of forms and themes. Chappell has received numerous awards for his writing and teaching. In 1968, he won the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1985, he and John Ashbery shared Yale University’s Bollingen Prize for Poetry. In 1986, he received the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest honor the University of North Carolina can bestow on a faculty member. He won the T. S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing from the Ingersoll Foundation in 1993, the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry from Sewanee Review in 1996, and the Leila Lenore Heasley Prize from Lyon College in 1999. He was named poet laureate of North Carolina in 1997.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bizzaro, Patrick, ed. More Lights than One: On the Fiction of Fred Chappell. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004. A collection of critical essays by various scholars shed light on current study of Chappell’s works.

Broughton, Irv. “Fred Chappell.” In The Writer’s Mind: Interviews with American Authors. Vol. 3. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1990. Far-ranging interview in which Chappell discusses influences on his writing and the differences between writing fiction and poetry. Discussion of his short fiction touches upon his historical short stories as attempts to liberate historical personalities from the history books and make them seem living human beings.

Chappell, Fred. “First Attempts.” Turnstile (1992): 71-84. Discusses the changes that being objective about subjective feelings makes in a writer and how a young writer comes to appreciate this. As a young man, Chappell wrote science-fiction stories because “plotting real experiences proved impossible; plotting what I made up proved to be fairly easy.” Once he learned how to combine analysis with vision, his interest shifted from stories of the fantastic to stories based on his personal life.

Chappell, Fred. “Fred Chappell.” Interview by Tersh Palmer. Appalachian Journal (Summer, 1992): 402-410....

(The entire section is 517 words.)