Biography of Randall Jarrell
Poet, critic and teacher, Randall Jarrell was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Anna (Campbell) and Owen Jarrell on May 6, 1914. Mr. Jarrell attended the Vanderbilt University and later taught at the University of Texas.
Mr. Jarrell also taught a year at Princeton and also at the University of Illinois; he did a two-year appointment as Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress.
Randall Jarrell published many novels througout his lifetime and one of his most well known works was in 1960, "The Woman at the Washington Zoo".
Upon Mr. Jarrells passing, Peter Taylor (A well known fiction writer and friend of Mr. Jarrell) said, "To Randall's friends there was always the feeling that he was their teacher. To Randall's students there was always the feeling that he was their friend. And with good reason for both." Lowell said of Jarrell, "Now that he is gone, I see clearly that the spark of heaven really struck and irradiated the lines and being of my dear old friend—his noble, difficult and beautiful soul."
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Randall Jarrell Poems
The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
It was not dying: everybody died. It was not dying: we had died before In the routine crashes-- and our fields Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
The spirit killeth, but the letter giveth life. The week is dealt out like a hand That children pick up card by card. One keeps getting the same hand.
Each day brings its toad, each night its dragon. Der heilige Hieronymus--his lion is at the zoo-- Listens, listens. All the long, soft, summer day Dreams affright his couch, the deep boils like a pot.
The letters always just evade the hand One skates like a stone into a beam, falls like a bird. Surely the past from which the letters rise Is waiting in the future, past the graves?
The Black Swan
When the swans turned my sister into a swan I would go to the lake, at night, from milking: The sun would look out through the reeds like a swan, A swan's red beak; and the beak would open
The Woman At The Washington Zoo
The saris go by me from the embassies. Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet. They look back at the leopard like the leopard.
A Sick Child
The postman comes when I am still in bed. "Postman, what do you have for me today?" I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.) Then he says - what shall I have him say?
Eighth Air Force
If, in an odd angle of the hutment, A puppy laps the water from a can Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving Whistles O Paradiso!--shall I say that man
Did they send me away from my cat and my wife To a doctor who poked me and counted my teeth, To a line on a plain, to a stove in a tent? Did I nod in the flies of the schools?
A Country Life
A bird that I don't know, Hunched on his light-pole like a scarecrow, Looks sideways out into the wheat The wind waves under the waves of heat.
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All, I take a box And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens. The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
The Elementary Scene
Looking back in my mind I can see The white sun like a tin plate Over the wooden turning of the weeds; The street jerking --a wet swing--
At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe, I clambered to bed; up the globe's impossible sides I sailed all night—till at last, with my black beard, My furs and my dogs, I stood at the northern pole.
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,
Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.