Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth
Biography of Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth
Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth (May 31, 1893 – August 31, 1986) was an American author of fiction and poetry for children and adults. Her children's novel, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, won the 1931 Newbery Medal.
Elizabeth Coatsworth was born May 31, 1893, to Ida Reid and William T. Coatsworth, a prosperous grain merchant in Buffalo, New York. Coatsworth attended Buffalo Seminary, a private girl's school, and spent summers with her family on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. She began traveling as a child, vising the Alps and Egypt at age five. Coatsworth graduated from Vassar College in 1915 as Salutatorian. In 1916 she received a Master of Arts from Columbia University. She then traveled to the Orient, riding horseback through the Philippines, exploring Indonesia and China, and sleeping in a Buddhist monastery. These travels would later influence her writing.
In 1929, she married writer Henry Beston, with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Catherine. They lived at Hingham, Massachusetts, and Chimney Farm, Maine.
Elizabeth Coatsworth died at her home in Nobleboro, Maine, August 31, 1986. Her papers are held in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota and Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine.
Coatsworth began her career publishing her poetry in magazines. Her first book was a poetry collection for adults, Fox Footprints, in 1923. A conversation with her friend, Louise Seaman, who had just founded the first children's book publishing department in the United States at Macmillan, led Coatsworth to write her first children's book, The Cat and the Captain. In 1930 The Cat Who Went to Heaven appeared. The story of an artist who is painting a picture of Buddha for a group of monks, it won the Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers says "Coatsworth reached her apogee in her nature writing, notablyThe Incredible Tales". These four books were published for adults in the 1950s. They tell the story of the Pedrys, a family living in the forests of northern Maine who may not be entirely human.
Coatsworth had a long career, publishing over 90 books from 1927 to her autobiography and final book in 1976.
Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth Poems
Swift Things are Beautiful
Swift things are beautiful: Swallows and deer, And lightening that falls Bright-veined and clear,
I Like to See a Thunderstorm
I like to see a thunder storm, A dunder storm, A blunder storm, I like to see it, black and slow,
The Bad Kittens
You may call, you may call But the little black cats won't hear you. The little black cats are maddened By the bright green light of the moon;
All day the long cold fingers of the rain Have pried at the gray tiles above the graves, Finishing the work of years in the drear fields Where coffins lie uncovered in the light
Prince Sung built Tsheng-leng tower From which he might espy Dame Sik of the smoke-like hair And willow waist, go by.
Light of Love
Nay, bury her in her cloak; she was not one To prison in a coffin. At her head, When you have strewn the earth with forest leaves, Pile apricots and peaches, apples red,
Spring in China
The earth's coat is the green of young willows Beside brown streams. It is embroidered with flowering trees- Plum, peach and apricot.
Moon over Japan. White butterfly moon! The waters wash against the sacred islands Where steps lead down to the sea,
Always when Absalom returned at night, Tired from hunting, yet adventure-filled, 'Twas Michal met him in the darkened court, Gave him his wine and listened to his tales.
Cover me over, Cover me deep, Leaves of silence, Leaves of sleep ...
In the whole graveyard there is not a nymph To rustle through the yellow fall of leaves, Upon a tomb a pitying angel grieves,
Fly Low, Vermilion Dragon
Fly low, vermilion dragon, With the moon horns. Fly down to the top of the mountains That I may climb into your saddle
On a Night of Snow
Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow. You will come back with little white shoes on your feet, little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet. Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
Wise Sarah and the Elf
"Is there anything," asked the goblin, "you would like for yourself? Should you like a little pony
Cover me over,
Cover me deep,
Leaves of silence,
Leaves of sleep ...
Bury my body and hands and face
Slowly drifting, dropping, and sifting
Through space ...
Oh the soft lispings,
And light whisperings
And the golden darkness
On my eyes!