Other literary forms
Although W. D. Snodgrass is known primarily as a poet, he also published criticism and translations. In Radical Pursuit: Critical Essays and Lectures (1975) offers original perspectives on the works of Homer, Dante, William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevski, and others, but its greatest interest lies in several essays in which Snodgrass follows Edgar Allan Poe in giving his own “philosophy of composition.” His translations are diverse and interesting. Gallows Songs (1967) and the translations included in After Experience, Miorita (1975), and Six Troubadour Songs (1977), offer a diverse selection of poetry that includes the Romanian folk poem “Miorita” and works by Christian Morgenstern, Gérard de Nerval,Arthur Rimbaud,Rainer Maria Rilke, and Victor Hugo. They are effective English poems that remain faithful to the originals. Snodgrass also became interested in autobiographical sketches, a number of which appeared in magazines.
W. D. Snodgrass’s first book, Heart’s Needle, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960. He was the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, from The Hudson Review (1958), the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1960), the Ford Foundation (1963), the National Endowment for the Arts (1966), the Guggenheim Foundation (1972), and the Academy of American Poets (1972). His output, though not as prolific as that of others, nevertheless won numerous accolades and honors in addition to the prestigious Pulitzer: the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1958; the Longview Foundation Literary Award in 1959; the Poetry Society of America citation in 1960; the British Guinness Award in 1961, for Heart’s Needle; the Yaddo Resident Award in 1960, 1961, 1965, 1976, 1977; the Miles Poetry Award in 1966; the Bicentennial Medal from the College of William and Mary in 1976; the Centennial Medal from the government of Romania in 1977; the first prize for translations of Romanian letters from the Colloquium of Translators and Editors, Siaia, Romania in 1995; and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award in 1999.
Gatson, Paul L. W. D. Snodgrass. Boston: Twayne, 1978. The first book-length study of Snodgrass, this volume remains a good introduction to his life and works. It offers insightful studies of the major poems in Snodgrass’s first three volumes. The text is supplemented by a chronology, notes, a select bibliography, and an index.
Goldstein, Laurence. “The Führer Bunker and the New Discourse About Nazism.” Southern Review 24 (Winter, 1988): 100-114. This article raises a concern that poems about Hitler might elevate him to the stature of a charismatic figure because of the absoluteness of his power. A review of the form and content of the most important poems, however, shows how completely Snodgrass has revealed the twisted nature of Hitler and his supporters.
Haven, Stephen, ed. The Poetry of W. D. Snodgrass: Everything Human. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993. Gathers reviews and criticism on Snodgrass and his major collections, by poets and critics such as John Hollander, Hayden Carruth, J. D. McClatchy, Harold Bloom, Hugh Kenner, and Dana Gioia. Haven includes a chronology of the poet’s life and work, as well as a bibliography.
McClatchy, J. D. White Paper on Contemporary American Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. A fellow poet writes a long chapter about the lyricism in Snodgrass’s poetry. He sees the confessional mode as dominant in his early poems and then modified in the later works, but never abandoned.
McDonald, William. “W. D. Snodgrass,...
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