Obituary: Joseph Langland, noted poet, longtime professor

Joseph Langland, 90, of Amherst, renowned poet and professor emeritus of English who founded the MFA program in Creative Writing, died April 9.

Born in Spring Grove, Minn., he grew up on the family farm in northeastern Iowa, just outside of Decorah. He received an A.A. from Santa Ana College in California in 1936, and a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Iowa in 1940. He received an honorary doctorate from Luther College in 1975.

He served in the European Theater during World War II, earning an EAME Theater Medal with four bronze stars, American Theater Medal, and a Victory Medal. He rose to the rank of captain and stayed on after the conflict to serve as part of the military government in Bavaria.

Prior to joining the English Department in 1959, he taught for 11 years at the University of Wyoming. He was a part-time instructor at the University of Iowa from 1946-48. He was also a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including the University of British Columbia; the University of Washington and San Francisco State College.

He retired from the faculty in 1979.

He was an influential voice in American poetry written after World War II and taught many who belong to the current generation of poets.

He was the author of numerous books of poetry, including “The Green Town” (1956), “The Wheel of Summer” (1963), “The Sacrifice Poems” (1975), “Any Body''s Song” (1980) and “Selected Poems” (1991).

He received numerous honors and awards for his poetry, including a National Council of the Arts Award, the Melville Cane Award, an Amy Lowell Award and a Ford Faculty Fellowship.

He was featured on ABC-TV''s “Meet the Professor” in 1963.

Many of his poems were set to music by composers, such as Morton Gould, Phillip Bezanson, Elliott Schwartz and Gerhard Krapf.

Several of his poems, most notably “War,” commemorating the death of his brother Harold in World War II, have been translated into numerous languages and frequently anthologized. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, among them The New Yorker, Poetry, The Massachusetts Review and Northwest Review.

With Paul Engle, he also co-edited the highly regarded collection “Poet’s Choice’ (1962) and with James Hall a collection of short stories titled “The Short Story” (1956). For many years, he was also poetry editor of The Massachusetts Review.

He was married for 53 years to Judith Wood, who died in 1997.

He leaves a sister, Lois Langland, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; a brother, Walter, of Decorah, Iowa; two sons, Joseph Langland Jr. of Amherst and Paul Langland of New York City; a daughter, Elizabeth Langland, of Larchmont, N.Y.; two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.