John Hollander in 2008, via the New York Times
“Hollander is almost wholly amphibious as a poet and critic,” says Jay Parini about John Hollander, who passed away recently. As our critics note, Hollander was a man of unique genius and success in a variety of literature’s arenas. Robert Beum describes Hollander as, “a Modernist who has come to terms with traditions. . . . A contemporary old master—an erudite humanist, profound, witty, genial, courteous.” In this spirit we celebrate the life and work of John Hollander.
Embodying the poet-critic, Hollander debuted in our pages in 1958 with two poems, followed soon after by a piece of Shakespeare criticism. He published with the Sewanee Review shortly after W. H. Auden—also contributor to our magazine—chose Hollander’s collection A Crackling of Thorns to win the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. Watch Robert Pinsky read Hollander's poem "Sparklers."
In the past fifty years, Hollander has been frequently reviewed and discussed by our critics for his poetry and criticism, and sometimes both, as with his book Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse, a guide to poetic forms written in the very forms they describe. He published over a dozen books of poetry and many works of criticism, including a Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls, which he wrote in collaboration with Anthony Hecht, a frequent contributor to the Sewanee Review and the third recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry. He also edited numerous collections and even dabbled in children’s literature. Read a 1985 interview with Hollander, as well as his conversation with the Paris Review for their Art of Poetry series.
In addition to visiting the pages of the Sewanee Review, he frequented campus to teach for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee School of Letters. We will miss his warm, enlivening presence and his flow of bright, thought-stirring writing.
Photograph of Hollander in 1966, via the Guardian