Born: April 24, 1905
Died: September 15, 1989
Robert Penn Warren, the nation’s first poet laureate, is the only person to win Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won in 1947 for his novel All the King’s Men, in 1958 for the book of poetry, Promises: Poems, 1954-1956, and in 1979 for the book of poetry, Now and Then: Poems, 1976-1978.
Warren was born in the Todd County town of Guthrie to Robert Franklin Warren, a banker and businessman, and Anna Ruth Penn Warren, a schoolteacher.
He was educated at Vanderbilt University (having entered at age 16), graduating in 1925 summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and as a recipient of the Founder’s Medal. He received a master of arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1927. He did post-graduate work at Yale University and as a Rhodes Scholar earned a B. Litt. from New College, Oxford in 1930. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Italy.
Warren was a poet, critic, novelist, and teacher, primarily at Louisiana State University, the University of Minnesota and then Yale University. He was appointed the nation’s first poet laureate in 1986.
All the King’s Men was made into a play, a motion picture (three times), and an opera. The novel has been translated into at least 20 languages. Warren’s novel Band of Angels (1955) also was made into a movie starring Clark Gable, Sidney Poitier, and Yvonne De Carlo.
“Warren’s 10 novels are unified in both locale and theme,” critic Charles Bohmer wrote. “They are works about the South and southerners and, while aspiring to transcend their time and place, are nonetheless marked by a Southern particularity that is deliberate, insistent, and unmistakable. They fall into two groups: the first group is historical and evokes a lost world recaptured through the imaginative use of documentary evidence; the second group is contemporary and constitutes a history of Warren’s own times.”
Warren also authored and published 16 books of poetry, beginning in 1936 and ending in 1985. He published two collections of short stories, three children’s books, four textbooks, six collections of essays, three historical works, one play, and one biography.
“At their strongest, Warren’s poems win their contest with the American sublime and find a place with Melville’s best poems, formidable exiles from our dominant, Emersonian tradition,” critic Harold Bloom wrote.
Warren received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1969 and served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1972 until 1988. He was selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 1981. He delivered the third Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities in 1974. In addition to three Pulitzer Prizes, his many honors and awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Poetry (1985) and the National Medal of Arts (1987).
He was married to Emma Brescia (1929-1951) and Eleanor Clark (1952-1989). He and Clark had two children, Rosanna Phelps Warren and Gabriel Penn Warren.
Night Rider. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1939.
At Heaven’s Gate. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, l943.
All the King’s Men. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1946.
World Enough and Time. New York: Random House, 1950.
Band of Angels. New York: Random House, 1955.
The Cave. New York: Random House, 1959.
Wilderness: A Tale of the Civil War. New York: Random House, 1961.
Flood: A Romance of Our Time. New York: Random House, 1964.
Meet Me in the Green Glen. New York: Random House, 1971.
A Place to Come To. New York: Random House, 1977.
Thirty-six Poems. New York: Alcestis Press, 1936.
Eleven Poems on the Same Theme. Norfolk, VA: New Directions, 1942.
Selected Poems: 1923-1943. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1944.
Brother to Dragons: A Tale in Verse and Voices. New York: Random House, 1953.
Brother to Dragons: A Tale in Verse and Voices–A New Version. New York: Random House, 1979.
Promises: Poems 1954-1956. New York: Random House, 1957.
You, Emperors, and Others: Poems 1957-1960. New York: Random House, 1960.
Selected Poems: New and Old, 1923-1966. New York: Random House, 1966.
Incarnations: Poems 1966-1968, Random House, (1968).
Audubon: A Vision. New York: Random House, 1969.
Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974. New York: Random House, 1974.
Selected Poems: 1923-1976. New York: Random House, 1977.
Now and Then: Poems 1976-1978 (Pulitzer Prize). New York: Random House, 1978.
Being Here: Poetry 1977-1980. New York: Random House, 1980.
Rumor Verified: Poems 1979-1980. New York: Random House, 1981.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. New York: Random House, 1983.
New & Selected Poems: 1923-1985. New York: Random House, 1985.
The Circus in the Attic, and Other Stories. Harcourt Brace, 1947.
Blackberry Winter, Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1946.
Understanding Poetry (with Cleanth Brooks). New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1938.
Understanding Fiction (with Cleanth Brooks). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1943.
Fundamentals of Good Writing – A Handbook of Modern Rhetoric (with Cleanth Brooks). Harcourt Brace, 1950.
American Literature: The Makers and the Making (with Cleanth Brooks and R.W.B. Lewis). New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1974.
Remember the Alamo. New York: Random House, 1958.
The Gods of Mount Olympus. New York: Random House, 1959.
How Texas Won Her Freedom. La Porte, TX: San Jacinto Museum of History, 1959.
All the King’s Men: A Play. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1960.
Homage to Theodore Dreiser, On the Centennial of His Birth, New York: Random House, 1971.
John Greenleaf Whittier’s Poetry: An Appraisal and a Selection. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1971.
Selected Essays. New York: Random House, 1958.
Portrait of a Father. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.
Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. 1980.
New and Selected Essays. New York: Random House, 1989.
Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South. New York: Random House, 1956.
The Legacy of the Civil War: Meditations on the Centennial. New York: Random House, 1961.
Who Speaks for the Negro. New York: Random House, 1965.
John Brown: The Making of a Martyr. New York: Payson & Clarke, 1929.
Kentucky Educational Television’s 2018 documentary about Warren’s life and work (58:21):