David Wagoner

(5 June 1926 / Massillon, Ohio)

Biography of David Wagoner

David Wagoner poet

David Russell Wagoner is an American poet who has written many poetry collections and ten novels. Two of his books have been nominated for National Book Awards.

Early Life

Born in Massillon, Ohio and raised in Whiting, Indiana from the age of seven, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University where he was a member of Naval ROTC and graduated in three years. He received an M.A. in English from the Indiana University in 1949 and has taught at the University of Washington since 1954 on the suggestion of friend and fellow poet Theodore Roethke.


Wagoner was editor of Poetry Northwest from 1966 to 2002 and his play An Eye For An Eye For An Eye was produced in 1973. Wagoner was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978 and served in that capacity until 1999. One of his novels, The Escape Artist, was turned into a film by executive producer Francis Ford Coppola. He currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island.

The natural environment of the Pacific Northwest is the subject of much of David Wagoner's poetry. He cites his move from the Midwest as a defining moment: "[W]hen I came over the Cascades and down into the coastal rainforest for the first time in the fall of 1954, it was a big event for me, it was a real crossing of a threshold, a real change of consciousness. Nothing was ever the same again."

David Wagoner's Works:

Poetry collections

Dry Sun, Dry Wind (1953)
A Place to Stand (1958)
Poems (1959)
The Nesting Ground (1963)
Staying Alive (1966)
New and Selected Poems (1969)
Working Against Time (1970)
Riverbed (1972)
Sleeping in the Woods (1974)
A Guide to Dungeness Spit (1975)
Collected Poems, 1956–1976
Who Shall Be the Sun? (1978)
In Broken Country (1979)
The Hanging Garden (1980)
One for the Rose (1981)
Landfall (1981)
First Light (1983)
Through the Forest (1987)
Walt Whitman Bathing (1996)
Traveling Light (1999)
The House of Song (2002)
Good Morning and Good Night (2005)
A Map of the Night (2008)


The Man in the Middle (1954)
Money, Money, Money (1955)
Rock (1958)
The Escape Artist (1965)
Baby, Come On Inside (1968)
Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight? (1970)
The Road to Many a Wonder (1974)
Tracker (1975)
Whole Hog (1976)
The Hanging Garden (1980)

Edited volumes

Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke (1972) (selected and arranged by David Wagoner)
The Best American Poetry 2009

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PoemHunter.com Updates

That Child

That child was dangerous. That just-born
Newly washed and silent baby
Wrapped in deerskin and held warm
Against the side of its mother could understand
The language of birds and animals
Even when asleep. It knew why Bluejay
Was scolding the bushes, what Hawk was explaining
To the wind on the cliffside, what Bittern had found out
While standing alone in marsh grass. It knew

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