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Summary Article: Jarrell, Randall
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


US poet and critic

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, he graduated from Vanderbilt University and served in the air force in World War II. Many of his early poems draw on his war experience, and his later work continues to focus on alienation and loss, often exploring these themes through dramatic monologues. He published several volumes of poetry, ranging from Blood for a Stranger (1942) to The Lost World, published posthumously in 1966. His Complete Poems appeared in 1969. A merciless reviewer of bad verse, he also wrote lucid and eloquent essays on writers he admired, and collections of his criticism such as Poetry and the Age (1953) and Kipling, Auden & Co (1980) are of unfading interest, as are his children's books, notably The Animal Family (1965), illustrated by Maurice Sendak. He taught English at a series of colleges and universities, satirizing a stint at Bennington College in his novel Pictures from an Institution (1954). Near the end of his life he was hospitalized for depression, and soon after being released he was hit by a car, probably a suicide, possibly as a result of his war experience.

  • Shapiro, K Randall Jarrell (1967).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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