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Richard Joseph Howard (born October 13, 1929; adopted as Richard Joseph Orwitz) is an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a graduate of Columbia University, where he studied under Mark Van Doren, and where he is an emeritus professor. He lives 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 has written poems using a quantitative verse technique.
A prolific literary critic, Howard's monumental 1969 volume Alone With America stretched to 594 pages and profiled 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.
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 for his 1983 translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. Howard was a long-time poetry editor of The Paris Review. He has 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 former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, he is 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.
In 2016, he received the Philolexian Society Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.
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. Howard is gay, a fact that comes up frequently in his more recent work. He has been 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!"
Howard keeps on his bed in a nook of his New York City apartment a large stuffed gorilla named "Mildred".
- 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)
- 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)
- The Traitor by André Gorz
- Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire
- Camera Lucida, and many other works by Roland Barthes
- Proust and Signs by Gilles Deleuze
- Simone de Beauvoir
- Nadja by André Breton
- A Happy Death by Albert Camus
- Emil Cioran
- Michel Foucault
- Charles de Gaulle
- André Gide
- Jean Giraudoux
- Nedjma by Kateb Yacine
- Serres chaudes by Maurice Maeterlinck
- The Stars by Edgar Morin
- The History of Surrealism by Maurice Nadeau
- Alain Robbe-Grillet
- Hubert Monteilhet
- La Guerre en Algérie by Jules Roy
- Claude Simon
- The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne
- William Marshal, The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby, Pantheon Books
- Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes (2010), Hill and Wang: New York. ISBN 978-0-8090-6233-1
- "Mark Van Doren", Columbia 250 – Colombian Ahead of Their Times Columbia University.
- Howard, Richard. Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. New York: Atheneum, 1969.
- Richard Howard, The Art of Poetry No. 86, The Paris Review, interview by J. D. McClatchy, Spring 2004
- "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
There was a "Translation" award from 1966 to 1983.
- "New York". US State Poets Laureate. Library of Congress. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- "Praising Sacred Places: Richard Howard's Jewish Roots", article by Benjamin Ivry in The Forward.
- Official biography at Cleveland Arts Prize website
- Mourning Diary, ed. Nathalie Léger, trans. Richard Howard (Hill and Wang, 2010).
- Richard Howard's biography in poets.org
- J. D. McClatchy (Spring 2004). "Richard Howard, The Art of Poetry No. 86". The Paris Review. Spring 2004 (169).
- The poem "Only Different" at Guernica
- The poem "Richard, What's That Noise?" at The Poetry Foundation
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