Tame Monster

Randall Jarrell was born in Nashville in 1914 and grew up in Tennessee and Southern California.  He studied under poet and critic John Crowe Ransom at Vanderbilt University and followed him to Kenyon College, where he lived in Ransom’s attic with the young Robert Lowell and wrote his thesis on A.E. Housman.  Encouraged by Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren, Jarrell was the crown prince of the Southern poets and New Critics.  During World War II, he washed out of flight school and became a celestial-navigation instructor at Army Air Force bases in Texas and at Chanute Field, near Champaign-Urbana, in Illinois.  He married Mackie Langham in 1940 and (after his divorce) Mary von Shrader in 1952.  He was literary editor of the Nation in 1946-47 and taught at the Women’s College of North Carolina in Greensboro from 1947 to 1965.  He escaped from this provincial backwater to the Salzburg (Austria) Seminar in the summer of 1948 and to Princeton in 1951-52, and was poetry consultant at the Library of Congress in 1956-57.

Stephen Burt, uncritical when examining his subject’s statements, offers a derivative and shallow account of Jarrell’s life in his opening chapter.  With characteristic self-pity, Jarrell exaggerated the “hellish” hardships of the ordinary school-boy job of delivering newspapers and learning the useful lesson that adults tell lies.  And why...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here