Conrad Aiken Biography

Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), American poet and novelist, born in Savannah, Georgia, and educated at Harvard University. His first volume of verse, Earth Triumphant and Other Tales in Verse (1914), reveals his talent for sensuous imagery and flowing rhythms. His Selected Poems won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and his Collected Poems won the 1954 National Book Award. Later volumes of his poetry include Cats and Bats and Things with Wings (1965), Preludes (1966), Selected Poems (1969), and Thee (1971).

Aiken wrote numerous novels and short stories, many of them based on psychoanalytic theory (see Psychoanalysis). One of his most notable stories is “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” published in his Among the Lost People (1934). The Short Stories of Conrad Aiken was published in 1950; the autobiographical Ushant appeared in 1952; his Collected Novels was published in 1964; and Collected Criticism appeared in 1968. Aiken's work most consistently explores the difficulty in achieving a stable personal identity in a constantly changing world. In recognition of his literary achievement, Aiken held the Chair of Poetry of the Library of Congress from 1950 to 1952 and was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1958.

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