Poetry Sunday: Paul Laurence Dunbar

I'm especially pleased to be able to showcase this new poet in this week's edition of Poetry Sunday. In the past, I've highlighted the lives and the accomplishments of famous African-American freethinkers like W.E.B. DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston, showing that religious skepticism and freethought have always played a lively role in the American black community. Today's post offers another example of that.Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Ohio in June 1872 to two ex-slaves from Kentucky. His … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation

This week's Poetry Sunday features a new author, the American poet Stanley Kunitz. In his long lifetime, he was one of America's most renowned poets, winning, among other awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Medal of Arts, the Robert Frost Medal, and Harvard's Centennial Medal. He served a term as Poet Laureate of the United States, and was still writing and publishing at the age of 100, just prior to his death in 2006.Stanley Kunitz was born in 1905 in Massachusetts. His father … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: An Arundel Tomb

Today's edition of Poetry Sunday features a return of the English poet and novelist Philip Larkin. Born in Coventry in 1922, Larkin received a degree in literature from Oxford in 1943. Though he worked for most of his life as a librarian at the University of Hull, he was well-known and widely acclaimed for his poetry and his work as a literary reviewer and jazz critic. He received numerous awards for his writing in his lifetime, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, the German Shakespeare … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Tor House

This month's Poetry Sunday features another poem by Robinson Jeffers, an American poet of the early twentieth century. Born 1887 in Pennsylvania, Jeffers was the son of a Presbyterian minister who taught his son Latin and Greek. Nevertheless, Jeffers did not follow in his father's footsteps. Rather than theology, he became enthralled at a young age with the natural world, and became an avid outdoorsman and follower of scientific discoveries in biology, astronomy, and other areas.Jeffers found … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Evening Without Angels

In a comment on April's Poetry Sunday, Eric suggested another post featuring Wallace Stevens. I wanted to reprint Wilfred Owen's poem last month in honor of Memorial Day, but I'm always open to requests.Today's post, like my previous selection from Stevens, highlights the poet's naturalistic, humanist views. According to Alan D. Perlis' book Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes, this poem "eliminates angels from this world only to elevate the human soul to an angelic … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Dulce Et Decorum Est

In honor of Memorial Day, I've chosen this poem for this week's Poetry Sunday, a classic on the horrors of war written by the English soldier Wilfred Owen.Owen was born in 1893 in Oswestry, England. His parents were evangelical Anglicans, and Owen himself was a devout believer when young. But, according to Joseph Parisi's 100 Essential Modern Poets, he had an early crisis of faith: after studying religion, he found that "he could not reconcile Christianity with the findings of science". He … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: A.E. Housman

Today's Poetry Sunday introduces another renowned, classic author who was also an atheist: the English poet and scholar A.E. Housman.Housman was born in Worcestershire in 1859. His personal life was marked by tragedy: his mother died while he was young, as did four of his six siblings, and his father squandered much of the family fortune. A homosexual, he fell in love with a fellow student while attending Oxford, but was rebuffed. The rejection left Housman emotionally scarred for life, and … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Leaves

Today's Poetry Sunday features the American poet Sara Teasdale. Like other female writers of the nineteenth century, she lived a quiet and reclusive life, yet was acclaimed in the wider world for compositions showing far greater skill and beauty than her seemingly limited perspective should have allowed. Unlike her predecessors, however, she lived to see the feminist movement take shape and win some resounding victories. One biographer wrote that she spoke for "women emerging from the humility … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: The Poet in the Desert

Today's Poetry Sunday introduces a new poet: the freethinker, civil libertarian, and Renaissance man extraordinaire, Charles Erskine Scott Wood.Born in 1852, Wood graduated from West Point in 1874 and served as an infantry officer in western campaigns, including the Nez Perce War. He was present at the surrender of Chief Joseph and transcribed (or possibly embellished) the old chief's famous saying: "My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: This Is Just A Place

For today's Poetry Sunday, I'm featuring the American poet A.R. Ammons, who was first showcased last year for his poem "Gravelly Run".Born in North Carolina in 1926, Ammons grew up on his family's farm during the Great Depression and attended a Pentecostal church, whose hellfire sermons terrified the young man. He first began to write poems while serving on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he pursued a postgraduate education and served in a variety of jobs before … [Read more...]


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