Happy 96th Birthday Richard Wilbur


Happy 96th Birthday to the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and long-time Massachusetts resident Richard Wilbur!

UMass Press has just published Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study, by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg.

Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur is the first biography of the sole surviving member of arguably the greatest generation of American poets—including Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Marianne Moore, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht, Theodore Roethke, and Delmore Schwartz. 

Robert and Mary Bagg had unrestricted access to Wilbur’s correspondence and personal papers, and from 2005 to 2016 they recorded numerous interviews with Wilbur as well as with his wife Charlee (who died in 2007). The book explores events and situations previously undisclosed, many of which suggest that Wilbur’s life was less charmed than the public assumed it was. And, contrary to public perceptions of Wilbur, especially compared to his contemporaries who were writing confessional poetry at midcentury, Wilbur did address life’s “darker side” in his poetry (often without resorting to a first-person voice) while at the same time expressing the faith and hope at the core of his Christian beliefs.

The biography also illuminates Wilbur’s poetry by connecting poems to the incidents, settings, and preoccupations that inspired his work.