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John Hollander, poet & professor

John Hollander—"one of contemporary poetry’s foremost poets, editors, and anthologists," and a longtime member of the Yale faculty, died August 18 at age 83.

"Over the course of an astonishing career, Hollander has influenced generations of poets and thinkers," the Poetry Foundation says. A New York Times obituary calls him " a virtuosic poet who breathed new life into traditional verse forms and whose later work achieved a visionary, mythic sweep."

Born in Manhattan in 1929 and a graduate (at age 20) of Columbia University, Hollander was a devotee of WH Auden, who chose his first volume of poems—A Crackling of Thorns—for the Yale Younger Poet Series in 1958. Hollander began teaching at Yale the next year, eventually becoming Sterling Professor Emeritus of English.

He remained part of "a hard-core group of faculty and students" who stayed committed to "the close reading of great texts," we wrote in a 2000 feature article about poetry at Yale. In an era of poetry slams and an MTV house poet, Hollander declared: “The idea of some 28th-rate writer letting students do anything they want and saying, ‘I like this about that,' makes serious poets and teachers cringe.”

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