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John Updike


Poet, essayist, short-story writer, critic, and novelist John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, on March 18, 1932. His father taught high school math, and his mother wrote short stories and novels. Updike received his BA from Harvard University in 1954, the year he began to publish in The New Yorker.

Thomas M. Disch wrote in Poetry magazine, "Updike enjoys such pre-eminence as a novelist that his poetry could be mistaken as a hobby or a foible," adding, "It is a poetry of civility—in its epigrammatical lucidity . . . and in its tone of vulgar bonhomie and good appetite." The Los Angeles Times noted that he "has earned an . . . imposing stance on the literary landscape . . . earning virtually every American literary award, repeated bestsellerdom and the near-royal status of the American author-celebrity."

Updike is the author of more than fifty books. Among his volumes of poetry are Americana and Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), Collected Poems 1953-1993 (1993), Facing Nature (1985), Tossing and Turning (1977), Seventy Poems (1972), Midpoint and Other Poems (1969), and The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958).

His novels and short-story collections include Toward the End of Time (1997), The Afterlife and Other Stories (1994), Problems and Other Stories (1981), Marry Me (1976), Rabbit Redux (1971), and Couples (1968).

Updike received numerous honors and awards including the National Book Award, American Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and a National Arts Club Medal of Honor. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Rabbit is Rich and another Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for Rabbit at Rest.

John Updike died due to complications of lung cancer on January 27, 2009.

Selected Bibliography


The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (Harper and Brothers, 1958)
Telephone Poles and Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1963)
Midpoint and Other Poems (1969)
Tossing and Turning (1977)
Facing Nature (1985)
Collected Poems 1953-1993 (1993)
Americana: and Other Poems (2001)

By This Poet


Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle

The celebrated windows flamed with light
directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place.  Then violins
vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye
saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes
of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held
the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed
until our beating hearts, our violins
were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.