John Frederick Nims Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

A distinguished translator, John Frederick Nims (nihmz) was acclaimed for The Poems of St. John of the Cross (1959, 1968, 1979). He translated Euripides’ Andromache for a volume in The Complete Greek Tragedies (1959) published by the University of Chicago Press and published a book of his translations from various languages, Sappho to Valéry: Poems in Translation (1971, 1980, 1990). His translations of The Complete Poems of Michelangelo appeared in 1998. Nims also edited a number of books, including The Poem Itself (with Stanley Burnshaw and others, 1960), Ovid’s Metamorphoses: The Arthur Golding Translation, 1567 (1965), and James Shirley’s “A Love’s Cruelty” (1980). He put his experience as poet, translator, and teacher to work in Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry (1974, 1983, 1999). Many of Nims’s essays on poetry and translation have been collected in A Local Habitation: Essays on Poetry (1985).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

John Frederick Nims contributed substantially to American letters as a translator, critic, editor, teacher, and poet. He earned praise especially for his translations, which were notable for their sensitivity to the sound, form, and feeling of the originals. His early work as a poet garnered honors, including the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize in 1942, the Guarantors’ Prize in 1943, and the Levinson Prize in 1944, all from Poetry magazine. After receiving the 1974 Brandeis University Creative Arts Award, in 1978, he was chosen Phi Beta Kappa Poet at Harvard University. Nims received grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation in 1952-1953 and the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities in 1967. Others awards followed from the Academy of American Poets in 1982, the Institute of the Humanities at the University of Illinois in 1983, and the Guggenheim Foundation in 1986. Knowledge of the Evening was nominated for a National Book Award. He received the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry from Sewanee Review in 1991 and the O. B. Hardison, Jr., Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1993.

Acknowledging his renown as scholar and poet, Nims was called to serve as judge for the National Book Awards in 1969, for the American Book Awards in 1970 and 1971, and for the coveted Bollingen Prize in 1987. Posthumously, the Modern Poetry Association inaugurated the John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for...

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

Epstein, Joseph. “John Frederick Nims and the Divine Silliness of Words.” Sewanee Review 107, no. 3 (Summer, 1999): 476-478. In an article written shortly after Nims’s death, Epstein describes how Nims gloried in the beauteous oddity of words and took great pleasure in food, friends and quotidian pleasures, and he assesses Nims’s editorship of Poetry.

Fulton, Alice. “On the Plains of Fancy.” Poetry 159, no. 1 (October, 1991): 32. American plain style, by definition valuing the language of least resistance, has a rich tradition. Fulton examines the plain style in “The Six-Cornered Snowflake” and “Zany in Denim” by Nims.

Jason, Philip K., ed. Masterplots II: Poetry Series. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002. Contains an in-depth analysis of the poem “Love Poem.”

Kennedy, X. J. “John Nims and His Multitudes.” Harvard Review (Spring, 1994). Poet Kennedy examines Nims’s poetics from a temporal vantage point affording a perspective on the poet’s oeuvre.

Nims, John Frederick. “John Frederick Nims.” Interview by William Baer. In Fourteen on Form: Conversations with Poets, edited by Baer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. Nims discusses translation, the merits of poetic structure, and his stint as editor of Poetry magazine.

Parisi, Joseph, and Stephen Young. Between the Lines: A History of Poetry in Letters, 1962-2002. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006. Using a documentary approach, Parisi and Young portray Poetry magazine’s history during the period that included Nims’s most significant involvement.

Pugh, Christina. Review of The Powers of Heaven and Earth. Poetry 182, no. 5 (August, 2003): 294-296. A review and assessment of Nims’s legacy as a poet.

Stefanile, Felix. “Poet to Poet: The Michelangelo of John Frederick Nims.” Review of The Complete Poems of Michelangelo. Sewanee Review 108, no. 1 (Winter, 2000): 23-26. Stefanile discusses Nims’s distinctive approach as translator in relation to his Michelangelo translations.