New York Times reports that John Hollander passed away this weekend. Hollander was the author of over twenty books of poetry, tens of books about poetry as well as the editor of a number of poetry anthologies over the course of his lifetime.
“In a general sense, I was writing in a line of wit, and of essayistic speculation, when I was young,” he told The Paris Review. “Still under Auden’s influence, I wanted to be read by philosophers and scientists and political theorists, not just by literary readers.”
In a well-known early poem, “The Great Bear,” a children’s outing to gaze at the night sky provokes an inquiry into meaning and chaos. Mr. Hollander incorporated quasi-reportorial material in “Movie-Going and Other Poems” (1962) and “Visions From the Ramble,” which included autobiographical glimpses of the fireworks at the 1939 World’s Fair and tributes to the old Broadway movie palaces that the author haunted in his youth.
Born to Muriel (Kornfeld) and Franklin Hollander, Jewish immigrant parents, in New York City, Hollander attended Columbia College of Columbia University, where he studied under Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling, and overlapped with Allen Ginsberg. After graduating, he supported himself for a while writing liner notes for classical music albums before returning to obtain a Ph.D. in literature.
Hollander resided in Woodbridge, Connecticut, where he served as a judge for several high school recitation contests, and said he enjoyed working with students on their poetry and teaching it. He stressed the importance of hearing poems out loud: “A good poem satisfies the ear. It creates a story or picture that grabs you, informs you and entertains you.”
He is known also for his translations from Yiddish.
Hollander usually wrote his poems on a computer, but if inspiration stuck him, he offered that, “I’ve been known to start poems on napkins and scraps of paper, too.”[
Hollander influenced poet Karl Kirchwey, who studied under Hollander at Yale. Hollander taught him that it was possible to build a life around the task of writing poetry. Kirchwey recalled Hollander’s passion:
Since he is a poet himself … he conveyed a passion for that knowledge as a source of current inspiration.
He also served in the following positions, among others: member of the board, Wesleyan University Press (1959–62); editorial assistant for poetry, Partisan Review (1959–65) and a contributing editor, of Harper’s Magazine (1969–71).
With his ex-wife, Anne Loesser (daughter of pianist Arthur Loesser; married 1953 to 1977), he was the father of writer Martha Hollander. He married Natalie Charkow in 1981.