Obituary Note: Richard Wilbur

Acclaimed poet Richard Wilbur, "whose meticulous, urbane poems earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and selection as the national poet laureate," died October 14, the New York Times reported. He was 96. Wilbur received his first Pulitzer, as well as a National Book Award, in 1957 for Things of This World; then won a second in 1988 for New and Collected Poems. He was poet laureate of the U.S. in 1987-88. His many other honors include the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which he won in 2006 at the age of 85.

Wilbur published nine volumes of poetry and several children's books, which he also illustrated. The Times noted that he "was also an esteemed translator of poems and other works from the French, Spanish and Russian, including the plays of Molière and Racine." Anterooms, his last collection of new poems and translations, was published in 2010.

"A devotee of classical rhyme and meter, his work retained a sense of orderly elegance through the rise of confessional poets such as Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath, and in contrast to the often esoteric work of avant-garde writers like John Ashbery," the Washington Post noted.

Robert Casper, head of the Library of Congress's Poetry and Literature Center, said, "If Ashbery invented a whole new kind of poetry, Richard Wilbur reminded us of the enduring power of tradition: that poems about the natural world and about love, written in classical, traditional rhyme and meter, would continue to matter going forward into the future."

Irish poet Paul Muldoon described Wilbur as "the single greatest technician in American poetry of the last 70 years," adding: "It was a technique perfectly at the service of tenderness and terror."

From Wilbur's poem "The Writer":

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.  
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