Richard Howard

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Richard Howard
Born13 October 1929 Edit this on Wikidata
Cleveland Edit this on Wikidata
Died31 March 2022 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 92)
OccupationTranslator, poet, writer Edit this on Wikidata

Richard Joseph Howard (October 13, 1929 – March 31, 2022;[1] adopted as Richard Joseph Orwitz) was an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a graduate of Columbia University, where he studied under Mark Van Doren,[2] and where he was an emeritus professor. He lived in New York City.


After reading French letters at the Sorbonne in 1952–53, Howard had a brief early career as a lexicographer. He soon turned his attention to poetry and poetic criticism, and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his 1969 collection Untitled Subjects, which took for its subject dramatic imagined letters and monologues of 19th century historical figures. For much of his career, Howard composed poems employing a quantitative verse technique.

A prolific literary critic, Howard's monumental 1969 volume Alone With America stretches to 594 pages[3] and profiles 41 American poets who had published at least two books each and "have come into a characteristic and—as I see it—consequential identity since the time, say, of the Korean War." Howard would later tell an interviewer

I wrote the book not for the sense of history, but for myself, knowing that a relation to one's moment was essential to getting beyond the moment. As I quoted Shaw in the book's preface, if you cannot believe in the greatness of your own age and inheritance, you will fall into confusion of mind and contrariety of spirit. The book was a rescuing anatomy of such belief, the construction of a credendum—articles of faith, or at least appreciation.[4]

He was awarded the PEN Translation Prize in 1976 for his translation of E. M. Cioran's A Short History of Decay and the National Book Award[5] for his 1983 translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. Howard was a long-time poetry editor of The Paris Review. He received a Pulitzer prize, the Academy of Arts and Letters Literary Award and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 1985, Howard received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation. A past Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, he was Professor of Practice in the writing program at Columbia's School of the Arts. He was previously University Professor of English at the University of Houston and, before that, Ropes Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. He served as Poet Laureate of the State of New York from 1993 to 1995.[6]

In 1982, Howard was named a Chevalier of L'Ordre National du Mérite by the government of France.

In 2016, he received the Philolexian Society Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.

Howard died in New York City on March 31, 2022, from complications of dementia.

Personal life[edit]

Richard Howard was born to poor Jewish parents. His last name at birth is unknown. He was adopted as an infant by Emma Joseph and Harry Orwitz, a middle-class Cleveland couple, who were also Jewish; his mother changed their last names to "Howard" when he was an infant, after she divorced Orwitz. Howard never met his birth parents, nor his sister, who was adopted by another local family.[7] Howard was gay, a fact that comes up frequently in his later work.[8] He was out to some degree since at least the 1960s, when he remarked to friend W. H. Auden that he was offended by a fellow poet's use of Jewish and gay epithets, "since [he was] both these things", to which Auden replied, "My dear, I never knew you were Jewish!"[7]

Howard kept on his bed in a nook of his New York City apartment a large stuffed gorilla named "Mildred".[4]



  • Quantities (1962)
  • Damages (1967)
  • Untitled Subjects (1969)
  • Findings (1971)
  • Two-Part Inventions (1974)
  • Fellow Feelings (1976)
  • Misgivings (1979)
  • Lining Up (1984)
  • No Traveller (1989)
  • Selected Poems (1991)
  • Like Most Revelations (1994)
  • Trappings (1999)
  • Talking Cures (2002)
  • Fallacies of Wonder (2003)
  • Inner Voices (selected poems), 2004
  • The Silent Treatment (2005)
  • Without Saying (2008)
  • A Progressive Education (2014)

Critical essays[edit]

  • Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950 (1969)
  • Preferences: 51 American Poets Choose Poems From Their Own Work and From the Past (1974)
  • Travel Writing of Henry James (essay) (1994)
  • Paper Trail: Selected Prose 1965–2003 (2004)

Major translations (French to English)[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Howard, Acclaimed Poet and Translator, Dies at 92 (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Mark Van Doren", Columbia 250 – Colombian Ahead of Their Times Columbia University.
  3. ^ Howard, Richard. Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. New York: Atheneum, 1969.
  4. ^ a b Richard Howard, The Art of Poetry No. 86, The Paris Review, interview by J. D. McClatchy, Spring 2004
  5. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
    There was a "Translation" award from 1966 to 1983.
  6. ^ "New York". US State Poets Laureate. Library of Congress. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Praising Sacred Places: Richard Howard's Jewish Roots", article by Benjamin Ivry in The Forward.
  8. ^ Official biography at Cleveland Arts Prize website

External links[edit]