Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson

1869 - 1935

Edwin Arlington Robinson is America’s poet laureate of unhappiness. In patiently crafted verse of great sonority, he portrays men and women suffering from life’s ordeals yet striving to understand and master their fates. American composers who have set Robinson’s verses include Aaron Copland, John Duke, Frank Lewin, and Charles Naginski.

Source: Poetry Foundation

About

A Maine poet whose numerous volumes of verse explore the repressive life of small-town America, Edwin Arlington Robinson drew inspiration for his portraits and tales from the tortured lives of his family and acquaintances. Transforming autobiography into myth, he set these stories in the fictitious Tilbury Town, the poet's emblem of the American dream gone awry, a place where creative genius is destroyed by neglect and misunderstanding.

Reared in Gardiner, Maine, and educated at Harvard, Robinson's philosophical perspective came to combine the idealism of the waning Romantic Age with the dark pessimism of the dawning century. While he believed ardently in the divine spark within all man and nature, he inevitably found that spark clouded with what he called "the black and awful chaos of the night." Given the bleak history of Robinson's own life--poetic neglect, unrequited passion, and family problems with alcohol--his view is not surprising; what is more amazing is the stoicism with which he persevered, ultimately winning national recognition for his long Arthurian poem, Tristram, in 1928.

Robinson claimed to have experienced his poetic vocation as an epiphany when, at age seventeen, he became "violently excited over the structure of English blank verse." An admirer of Robert Browning's dramatic monologues, he set about to cloak his own poetic persona in a series of masks, creating a gallery of characters who were at once thinly veiled incarnations of his relatives and townsfolk and subtle manifestations of his own psyche.

--Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing

Photo: Academy of American Poets

Songs & Song Collections BY Robinson (entered to date)
Composers who set Robinson's TEXTS (entered to date)

Audio PLaylist

Books