John Hollander

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John Hollander
John Hollander.jpg
Born(1929-10-28)October 28, 1929
DiedAugust 17, 2013(2013-08-17) (aged 83)
Branford, Connecticut
Alma materColumbia University (BA, MA)
Indiana University (PhD)
SpouseAnne Loesser;
Natalie Charkow
ChildrenMartha Hollander, Elizabeth Hollander

John Hollander (October 28, 1929 – August 17, 2013) was an American poet and literary critic.[1] At the time of his death, he was Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University, having previously taught at Connecticut College, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center, CUNY.


Hollander was born in Manhattan, to Muriel (Kornfeld) and Franklin Hollander,[2] Jewish immigrant parents. He was the older brother of Robert Hollander (1933-2021), a Princeton professor of comparative literature. He attended the Bronx High School of Science[3] and then Columbia College of Columbia University, where he studied under Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling, and overlapped with Allen Ginsberg (Hollander's poetic mentor),[4] Jason Epstein, Richard Howard, Robert Gottlieb, Roone Arledge, Max Frankel, Louis Simpson and Steven Marcus. At Columbia, he joined the Boar's Head Society.[5] After graduating, he supported himself for a while writing liner notes for classical music albums before returning to obtain an MA in literature, and then a PhD from Indiana University.[6]

Hollander resided in Woodbridge, Connecticut, where he served as a judge for several high-school recitation contests, and said he enjoyed working with students on their poetry and teaching it. With his ex-wife, Anne Loesser (daughter of pianist Arthur Loesser;[7] married 1953–77), he was the father of writer Martha Hollander and uncle of the songwriter Sam Hollander. He married Natalie Charkow in 1981.

Hollander died at Branford, Connecticut, on August 17, 2013, at the age of 83.[8]

Poetic career[edit]

Hollander stressed the importance of hearing poems out loud: 'A good poem satisfies the ear. It creates a story or picture that grabs you, informs you and entertains you'.[9] The poet needs to be aware of the "sound of sense; the music of speech".[10] To Hollander, verse was a kind of music in words, and he spoke eloquently about their connection with the human voice.[4]

Also known for his translations from Yiddish. Hollander usually wrote his poems on a computer, but if inspiration struck him, he offered that, "I've been known to start poems on napkins and scraps of paper, too."[9]

Hollander was also considered to have technical poetic powers without equal,[11] as exampled by his "Powers of Thirteen" poem, an extended sequence of 169 (13x13) unrhymed 13-line stanzas with 13 syllables in each line.[12] These constraints liberated rather than inhibited Hollander's imagination, giving a fusion of metaphors that enabled Hollander to conceive this work as "a perpetual calendar".[13] Hollander also composed poems as "graphematic" emblems (Type of Shapes, 1969) and epistolary poems (exampled in Reflections on Espionage, 1976),[14] and, as a critic (in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form, 1975), offered telling insights into the relationship between words and music and sound in poetry, and in metrical experimentation,[15] and 'the lack of a theory of graphic prosody'.[16]

Hollander influenced poets Todd LaRoche and Karl Kirchwey, who both studied under Hollander at Yale. Hollander taught him that it was possible to build a life around the task of writing poetry.[17] Kirchwey recalled Hollander's passion:[17] 'Since he is a poet himself ... he conveyed a passion for that knowledge as a source of current inspiration.'

Hollander also served in the following positions, among others: member of the board, Wesleyan University Press (1959–62); editorial assistant for poetry, Partisan Review (1959–65) and a contributing editor, of Harper's Magazine (1969–71).[18] and also commenced his other role as a poetry critic.[19]

Hollander's poetry has been set to music by Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, and others;[20] in 2007 he collaborated with the Eagles, allowing them use of his poem "An Old Fashioned Song" to create the song "No More Walks in the Wood".[21]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • A Crackling of Thorns (1958) poems
  • The Untuning of the Sky (1961)
  • The Wind and the Rain (1961) editor with Harold Bloom
  • Movie-Going (1962) poems
  • Philomel (1964) "cantata text" for the composition of the same name by American composer Milton Babbitt
  • Visions from the Ramble (1965) poems
  • Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls (1967) with Anthony Hecht
  • Types of Shape (1969, 1991) poems
  • Images of Voice (1970) criticism
  • The Night Mirror (1971) poems
  • Town and Country Matters (1972) poems
  • The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (1973), co-editor
  • The Head of the Bed (1974) poems
  • Tales Told of the Fathers (1975) poems
  • Vision and Resonance (1975) criticism
  • Reflections on Espionage (1976) poems
  • Spectral Emanations: New and Selected Poems (1978)
  • Blue Wine (1979) poems
  • The Figure of Echo (1981) criticism
  • Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse (1981, 1989, 2001, 2014) manual of prosody
  • Powers of Thirteen (1983) poems
  • In Time and Place (1986) poems
  • Harp Lake (1988) poems
  • Melodious Guile: Fictive Pattern in Poetic Language (1988)
  • Some Fugitives Take Cover (1988) poems
  • The Essential Rossetti (1990), editor
  • Tesserae and Other Poems (1993)
  • Selected Poetry (1993)
  • American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (1993), editor
  • Animal Poems (1994) poems
  • The Gazer's Spirit: Poems Speaking to Silent Works of Art (1995) criticism
  • Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize (1996), editor
  • The Work of Poetry (1997) criticism
  • The Poetry of Everyday Life (1998) criticism
  • Figurehead and Other Poems (1999) poems
  • Sonnets. From Dante to the present (2001), Everyman's library pocket poets.
  • Picture Window (2003)
  • American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse (2003), editor
  • Poems Bewitched and Haunted (2005), editor
  • A Draft of Light (2008), poems
  • The Substance of Shadow: a Darkening Trope in Poetic History (2016), lectures


  1. ^ "John Hollander". Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "John Hollander Biography". Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  3. ^ J.D. McClatchy, "John Hollander, The Art of Poetry No. 35", Paris Review (Fall 1984).
  4. ^ a b Yezzi, David, The New Criterion, vol. 32, October 2013.
  5. ^ "History". Columbia Review. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Keillor, Garrison. Writer's Almanac Archived November 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. October 28, 2006.
  7. ^ Benjamin Ivry (February 3, 2009). "Praising Sacred Places: Richard Howard's Jewish Roots - Culture –". Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Grimes, William (August 18, 2013). "John Hollander, Poet at Ease With Intellectualism and Wit, Dies at 83". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b c Boynton, Cynthia Wolfe, "Venerable Poet's Words To a Pop Music Beat", The New York Times, Connecticut and the Region section, February 10, 2008, p. 6.
  10. ^ Essay: "The Poem in the Ear", Vision and Resonance: Two senses of Poetic Form (1975).
  11. ^ Howard Richard, Alone in America: Essays on the art of poetry in U.S.since 1950, 1969.
  12. ^ Breslin, Paul, Review of Powers of Thirteen, Poetry, vol. 145, no. 3, December 1984.
  13. ^ Lehman, David - article in Newsweek, January 23, 1984.
  14. ^ Hollander, John - interview by email with Paul Devlin March/April 2003.
  15. ^ Attridge, Dennis, Review of Vision and Resonance: Two senses of Poetic Form, MLR, vol. 72, no. 3, July 1973.
  16. ^ Rothman, David, "Verse, Prose speech, Counting and the Problem of Graphic Order", Versification, vol. 1, no. 1, March 21, 1997.
  17. ^ a b John swansburg (April 29, 2001). "At Yale, Lessons in Writing and in Life". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2010. Karl Kirchwey, who graduated from Yale in 1979, recently became the director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, after having run the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y for over a decade. He remembers his first two years at Yale as unfocused and unproductive.
  18. ^ "John Hollander". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  19. ^ Hollander, John, Review "Stanley Cavell and the claim of Reason", Critical Inquiry, vol. 6, no. 4, U of C P, Summer 1980.
  20. ^ Readings in Contemporary Poetry, December 1995
  21. ^ Sam Hollander, "The Lives they Lived", New York Times Magazine, December 21, 2013.
  22. ^ STATE OF CONNECTICUT, Sites º Seals º Symbols Archived March 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine; Connecticut State Register & Manual; retrieved on January 4, 2007

External links[edit]