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Léonie Adams

1899–1988

Born on December 9, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York, Léonie Adams graduated from Barnard College in 1922.

An educator, consultant, editor, and poet, she was best known for her meticulously crafted lyric poetry, which fused Romantic and Metaphysical elements. In the 1920s, she served in editorial capacities for both Wilson Publishing and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She then went on to teach English and lecture at various colleges and universities, including New Jersey College for Women, from which she received an honorary doctoral degree in 1950; University of Washington; the Breadloaf Writers Conference; Columbia University; New York University; and Sarah Lawrence College.

From 1948–1949, Adams was the Poetry Consultant for Library of Congress (now the U.S. Poet Laureate). Her collections of poetry are Poems: A Selection (1954), which received the Bollingen Prize (a joint-winner with Louise Bogan); This Measure (1933); High Falcon and Other Poems (1929); and Those Not Elect (1925). In 1974, Adams was awarded an Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. Adams's awards and honors also include a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Award. She died on June 27, 1988, in New Milford, Connecticut.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Poems: A Selection (1954)
This Measure (1933)
High Falcon and Other Poems (1929)
Those Not Elect (1925)



 

Léonie Adams
Photo credit: Pach Bros., New York

By This Poet

2

Apostate

From weariness I looked out on the stars
   And there beheld them, fixed in throbbing joy, 
Nor racked by such mad dance of moods as mars
   For us each moment’s grace with swift alloy. 
And as they pierced the heavens’ serene deep
   An envy of that one consummate part
Swept me, who mock. Whether I laugh or weep,
   Some inner silences are at my heart.
Cold shame is mine for all the masks I wear,
   Belying that in me which shines and sings
Before Him, to face down man’s alien stare—
   A graceless puppet on unmeaning strings, 
I that looked out, and saw, and was at rest,
   Stars, and faint wings, rose-etched along the west.

Home-Coming

When I stepped homeward to my hill,
   Dusk went before with quiet tread;
The bare laced branches of the trees
   Were as a mist about its head.

Upon its leaf-brown breast the rocks
   Like great grey sheep lay silentwise,
Between the birch trees’ gleaming arms,
   The faint stars trembled in the skies.

The white brook met me half-way up,
   And laughed as one that knew me well,
To whose more clear than crystal voice
   The frost had joined a crystal spell.

The skies lay like pale-watered deep,
   Dusk ran before me to its strand
And cloudily leaned forth to touch
   The moon’s slow wonder with her hand.
 

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