Robert P. T. Coffin

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Robert Peter Tristram Coffin
Robert Peter Tristram Coffin.jpg
BornMarch 18, 1892
Brunswick, Maine
DiedJanuary 20, 1955(1955-01-20) (aged 62)
Brunswick, Maine

Robert Peter Tristram Coffin (March 18, 1892 – January 20, 1955) was an American poet, educator, writer, editor and literary critic. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1936, he was the Poetry editor for Yankee (magazine).[1]

Early Life[edit]

Born Robert Peter Coffin, the youngest of ten children to James William Coffin, a descendant of Tristram Coffin (settler) and Alice Mary Coombs on a saltwater farm on Sebascodegan Island.[1] Coffin earned his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1915 and then his Masters of Arts from Princeton University in 1916.[1] In 1921 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature by Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1936.[2]


Coffin served with the US Army in World War I. When he returned he taught English at Wells College and then as the Pierce Professor at Bowdoin College.[1]

There is a public school in Coffin's birthplace of Brunswick, Maine, named after him. Coffin Elementary School opened in 1955, in his honor.[3] He dedicated his book "Captain Abby and Captain John" to fellow Bowdoin College alumnus L. Brooks Leavitt, "a fellow son of Maine." Coffin subsequently wrote his poem "Brooks Leavitt" as a eulogy to his old friend, which was read at Leavitt's funeral in Wilton, Maine. "Captain Abby and Captain John" is one of his most well-known works, and centers around the characters Abby and John Pennell, two 19th-century ship captains. A shipbuilding district in Brunswick, Maine, known as Pennellville, provided the inspiration for the book, as well as Coffin's shared lineage with the Pennell family.


Robert P.T Coffin also illustrated many of his books.


Coffin died of a heart attack in Brunswick, Maine, on January 20, 1955, at the age of 62. He is buried in the Cranberry Horn Cemetery in Harpswell.

Partial bibliography[edit]


  • Book of Crowns and Cottages (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1925)
  • Laud, Storm Center of Stuart England (1930)
  • The Dukes of Buckingham, Playboys of the Stuart World (1931)
  • Portrait of an American (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1931)
  • Lost Paradise (Autobiography) (The Macmillan Co. New York, 1934)
  • The Kennebec: Cradle of Americans (Farrar & Rinehart, 1937) (First volume in the Rivers of America Series)
  • Maine Ballads (The Macmillan Co., New York 1938)
  • Primer for America (1943)
  • Mainstays of Maine (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1944)
  • Maine Doings (Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1950)

Fiction and poetry[edit]

  • Christchurch (Thomas Seltzer, New York, 1924)
  • Dew and Bronze (Albert & Charles Boni, 1927)
  • Golden Falcon (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1929)
  • The Yoke of Thunder (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1932)
  • Ballads of Square-Toed Americans (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1933)
  • Strange Holiness (1935)
  • Red Sky in the Morning (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1935)
  • John Dawn (1936)
  • Saltwater Farm. J. J. Lankes (illustration). (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1937.)
  • Thomas-Thomas-Ancil-Thomas (1941)
  • Book of Uncles (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1942)
  • Poems for a Son with Wings (1945)
  • People Behave Like Ballads (1946)
  • Yankee Coast (1947)
  • One Horse Farm (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1949)
  • Apples by Ocean (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1950)
  • On the Green Carpet (1951)


  1. ^ a b c d Swain, Raymond Charles (1967). A breath of Maine : portrait of Robert P. Tristram Coffin. Boston: Branden Press.
  2. ^ "Strange holiness, The 1936 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry".
  3. ^


External links[edit]