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Mona van Duyn Biography

(1921–1996), Valentines to the Wide World, A Time of Bees, To See, To Take

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American poet, born in Waterloo, Iowa, educated at the University of Iowa. She has been characterized as both a Midwesterner and ‘a poet of the suburbs’. From her initial collections onwards, Valentines to the Wide World (1959) and A Time of Bees (1964), her work has been popular and widely published. To influential admirers such as Richard Howard and the critic Robert von Hallberg, her ‘simple, human subjects’ and skill within traditional forms (often quatrains or rhymed/offrhymed couplets) are what constitutes her appeal. In 1971 she won the National Book Award for To See, To Take, having received the Bollingen prize the previous year; decisions loudly deprecated at the time by Allen Ginsberg. But, as von Hallberg pointed out in American Poetry and Culture 1945–1980 (1985), Van Duyn's inclination ‘is always to resist the visionary, even at the cost of being known as a…complacent representative of “domestic mediocrity” ’. Letters From a Father, and Other Poems (1982), written in memory of her aged parents, contains one of her best-known poems, ‘The Stream’. She has continued to produce well-received if somewhat conservative volumes, including Near Changes (1990).

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