Though a prolific poet, Robert Hillyer (HIH-lee-yur) published works in many other genres that were held in high esteem by academics. His publications include essays, translations, lyrics, criticism, book reviews, fiction, letters, lectures, and critical introductions to various anthologies. Accessibility remains the hallmark of both his art and academic writing, which is worth noting during a time when most writing, especially poetry, reflected the confusion of a violent era.
Robert Hillyer’s crowning achievement was the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, which he received in 1934 for The Collected Verse of Robert Hillyer. He also won the Garrison Prize for Poetry in 1916, the Award of the Lyric Associates in 1949 for The Death of Captain Nemo, and the Borestone Mountain Poetry Award in 1953. The government of France honored him with the Verdun Medal upon his transfer to the U.S. Army after the United States entered World War I. He received a fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, which allowed him to study at the University of Copenhagen, in 1920-1921, and honorary degrees from Trinity College and the University of Delaware. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1938 and served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1949 to 1961.
Hart, Paula L. “Robert (Silliman) Hillyer.” In American Poets, 1880-1945, Third Series, edited by Peter Quartermain. Vol. 54 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987.
Library of Congress, Fellows in American Letters. The Case Against the “Saturday Review” of Literature: The Attack of the “Saturday Review” on Modern Poets and Critics. Chicago: Poetry, 1949. This work is the Library of Congress’s response to Hillyer’s criticisms; it also contains letters and essays by other poets.
Perkins, David, ed. A History of Modern Poetry from the 1890’s to the High Modernist Mode. 1976. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987. Places Hillyer firmly within the conservative tradition that resisted the imagist movement of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens.
Stanlis, Peter J. “Robert Frost and Robert Hillyer: An Enduring Friendship.” In His “Incalculable” Influence on Others: Essays on Robert Frost in Our Time, edited by Earl J. Wilcox. Victoria, B.C.: English Literary Series, University of Victoria, 1994. Stanlis examines the relationship between Robert Frost and Hillyer and their regard for each other.