John Haines

1924 –

John Haines was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on June 29, 1924, and studied at National Art School, American University, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art.

The author of more than ten collections of poetry, Haines’s works include For the Century’s End: Poems 1990–1999 (University of Washington Press, 2001); At the End of This Summer: Poems 1948–1954 (Copper Canyon Press, 1997); The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer (Graywolf Press, 1993); and New Poems 1980–1988 (Story Line Press, 1990), for which he received both the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Western States Book Award.

Haines also published a book of essays titled Fables and Distances: New and Selected Essays (Graywolf Press, 1996), and a memoir, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-five Years in the Northern Wilderness (Graywolf Press, 1989).

In 1997, Haines was named a Fellow by the Academy of American Poets. Then Academy Chancellor Richard Howard wrote: 

Nearly four decades of concentrated making, “anchored like a ghost in heavy chains,” have afforded John Haines what is by now a distinctive resonance: his narrowly argued poems are wizened by opposing forces yet warmed by identifications of a shared human fate, and readers have come to cherish this clear voice, this clear vision. How gallantly images of acknowledged human defeat are shared with brother seers—with [Francisco de] Goya and [Auguste] Rodin among them, [Albrecht] Dürer and [Eugène] Delacroix, [Edward] Hopper and [Marsden] Hartley, supremely at the end with Michelangelo!—yet how gravely the landscapes and weathers of his chosen North have made Haines’s particular tract—that region of “the quelled and muttering life of stones”—into an Alaska of human intent as well as of the atlas. The choice of John Haines as this year’s Academy Fellow appears, like his singular and inevitable poems, a phenomenon naturally made.

Haines spent more than twenty years homesteading in Alaska and taught at Ohio University, George Washington University, and the University of Cincinnati. His other honors include the Alaska Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, two Guggenheim Fellowships, an Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Congress.

John Haines died on March 2, 2011, in Fairbanks, Alaska. In 2023, writer Rachel Epstein published May the Owl Call Again: A Return to Poet John Meade Haines, 1924–2011 (Cirque Press), an intimate correspondence featuring letters, poems, and reflections by the late poet.