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

This Is A Wonderful Poem

Come at it carefully, don't trust it, that isn't its right name,
It's wearing stolen rags, it's never been washed, its breath
Would look moss-green if it were really breathing,
It won't get out of the way, it stares at you
Out of eyes burnt gray as the sidewalk,
Its skin is overcast with colorless dirt,
It has no distinguishing marks, no I.D. cards,
It wants something of yours but hasn't decided
Whether to ask for it or just take it,

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