Biography of Donald Justice
Donald Justice was an American poet and teacher of writing.
Life and Career
Justice grew up in Florida, and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami in 1945. He received an M.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1947, studied for a time at Stanford University, and ultimately earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1954. He went on to teach for many years at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the nation's first graduate program in creative writing. He also taught at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Justice published thirteen collections of his poetry. The first collection, The Summer Anniversaries, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets in 1961; Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1980. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.
His honors also included grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. His Collected Poems was nominated for the National Book Award in 2004. Justice was also a National Book Award Finalist in 1961, 1974, and 1995.
Of Justice as teacher, his student and later colleague Marvin Bell said in a eulogy, “As a teacher, Don chose always to be on the side of the poem, defending it from half-baked attacks by students anxious to defend their own turf. While he had firm preferences in private, as a teacher Don defended all turfs. He had little use for poetic theory.”
Of Justice's accomplishments as a poet, his former student, the poet and critic Tad Richards, noted that, "Donald Justice is likely to be remembered as a poet who gave his age a quiet but compelling insight into loss and distance, and who set a standard for craftsmanship, attention to detail, and subtleties of rhythm."
Justice's work was the subject of the 1998 volume Certain Solitudes: On The Poetry of Donald Justice, which is a collection of essays edited by Dana Gioia and William Logan.
Donald Justice's Works:
The Old Bachelor and Other Poems (Pandanus Press, Miami, FL), 1951
The Summer Anniversaries (Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT), 1960; revised edition (University Press of New England, Hanover, NH), 1981
A Local Storm (Stone Wall Press, Iowa City, IA, 1963)
Night Light (Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 1967); revised edition (University Press of New England, Hanover, NH, 1981)
Sixteen Poems (Stone Wall Press, Iowa City, IA, 1970)
From a Notebook (Seamark Press, Iowa City, IA, 1971)
Departures (Atheneum, New York, NY, 1973)
Selected Poems (Atheneum, New York, NY, 1979)
Tremayne (Windhover Press, Iowa City, IA, 1984)
The Sunset Maker (Anvil Press Poetry, 1987)
A Donald Justice Reader (Middlebury, 1991)
New and Selected Poems (Knopf, 1995)
Orpheus Hesitated beside the Black River: Poems, 1952-1997 (Anvil Press Poetry, London, England), 1998
Collected Poems (Knopf, 2004)
Essay and interview collections
Oblivion: On Writers and Writing, 1998
Platonic Scripts, 1984
Justice edited posthumous selections of unpublished poetry for four poets: Weldon Kees, Henri Coulette, Raeburn Miller, and Joe Bolton
Aspel, Alexander (1965). Aspel, Alexander; Justice, Donald. eds. Contemporary French Poetry: Fourteen Witnesses after Man's Fate. University of Michigan Press
Kees, Weldon; Wojahn, David (2003). Justice, Donald. ed. The Collected
Poems of Weldon Kees (Third Edition). Bison Books. The first edition of this collection was published in 1960
Coulette, Henri (1990). Justice, Donald; Mezey, Robert. eds. Collected Poems of Henri Coulette. University of Arkansas Press
Miller, Raeburn; Justice, Donald (1994). Justice, Donald; Mackin, Cooper R.; Olson, Richard D.. eds. The Comma after Love: Selected Poems of Raeburn Miller. University of Akron Press
Bolton, Joe (1999). Justice, Donald. ed. Last Nostalgia: Poems 1982-1990
The Young God - A Vaudeville (opera by Edward Miller), 1969
The Death of Lincoln: an opera by Edwin London on an original libretto by
Donald Justice, 1988
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Donald Justice Poems
Pantoum Of The Great Depression
Our lives avoided tragedy Simply by going on and on, Without end and with little apparent meaning. Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
1 Dear ghosts, dear presences, O my dear parents, Why were you so sad on porches, whispering? What great melancholies were loosed among our swings!
All these maneuverings to avoid The touching of hands, These shifts to keep the eyes employed On objects more or less neutral
Men At Forty
Men at forty Learn to close softly
A Birthday Candle
Thirty today, I saw The trees flare briefly like The candles on a cake, As the sun went down the sky,
The Evening Of The Mind
Now comes the evening of the mind. Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood; Here is the shadow moving down the page Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Lights are burning In quiet rooms Where lives go on Resembling ours.
This poem is not addressed to you. You may come into it briefly, But no one will find you here, no one. You will have changed before the poem will.
On The Death Of Friends In Childhood
We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven Nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell; If anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight, forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands
Sestina: Here In Katmandu
We have climbed the mountain. There's nothing more to do. It is terrible to come down To the valley
It's snowing this afternoon and there are no flowers. There is only this sound of falling, quiet and remote, Like the memory of scales descending the white keys Of a childhood piano- outside the window, palms!
Men At Thirty
Thirty today, I saw The trees flare briefly like The candles upon a cake As the sun went down the sky,
A Map Of Love
Your face more than others' faces Maps the half-remembered places I have come to I while I slept— Continents a dream had kept
Ode To A Dressmaker's Dummy
Papier-mache body; blue-and-black cotton jersey cover. Metal stand. Instructions included. -- Sears, Roebuck Catalogue O my coy darling, still
Men At Thirty
Thirty today, I saw
The trees flare briefly like
The candles upon a cake
As the sun went down the sky,
A momentary flash
Yet there was time to wish
Before the break light could die
If I had known what to wish
As once I must have known
Bending above the clean candlelit tablecloth
To blow them out with a breath