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Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989) was a poet, critic, novelist, teacher, and co-founder of the Southern Review. He was appointed the nation’s first Poet Laureate in 1986. Author of over two dozen books, he was awarded three Pulitzer Prizes, two for poetry and one for his novel All the King’s Men. He also published a book of short stories, several selections of critical and historical essays, a biography, and two studies of race relations in America.


Robert Penn Warren submission

Robert Penn Warren’s Submission of “John Crowe Ransom: A Study in Irony,” 1935

Winter 2014 | Criticism

In 1931, Robert Penn Warren received free books in exchange for penning unsigned reviews for the Virginia Quarterly Review. However, his poems and stories were repeatedly rejected. Finally, he wrote the editor, Stringfellow Barr: “If my prose . . . is decent enough for you to print, my verse is equally, or more, so. Or, is a prose review regarded as merely a space filler in the Quarterly?”

The Second American Revolution

Spring 1931 | Criticism

When an American reads the history of his country from the founding of Jamestown to the firing on Fort Sumter, he is moving in a world that is frequently foreign to him. The accidents of place, or even the more intimate ones of heredity, which he hails with a certain relief, cannot wholly eradicate that strangeness and give a satisfactory sense of orientation and kinship.

Not Local Color

Winter 1932 | Essays

A warlike, various, and a tragical age is best to write of, but worst to write in, said Abraham Cowley. When a people looks back on such an age in its own history, another question is raised as it evokes in memory those wars, the turbulent variety, and the tragedy. From such reflection they will ask: what have these tumults wrought?

Garland for You

Spring 1959 | Poetry

Don’t bother a bit, you are only a dream you are having,
And if when you wake your symptoms are not relieved,
That is only because you harbor a morbid craving
For belief in the old delusion in which you have always believed.

Her Own People

Spring 1935 | Fiction

Fishily, he stared at the high ceiling, where grey plaster, delicately ringed by marks of old damp, was still shadowy, although bright sunshine struck into the room between cracks in the drawn blue curtains. Between the cracks in the curtain small waxy leaves were visible, brushing against the window pane.

John Crowe Ransom: A Study in Irony

Winter 1935 | Essays

The poetry of John Crowe Ransom is peculiarly systematic. It refers regularly to a center which is precise and has been objectively formulated by the poet himself, although not in relation to his poetry. Items of his poetic performance which appear the most innocent and peripheral are usually, on inspection, to be interpreted in relation to that basic idea of his work.


Winter 1942 | Poetry

The hunchback on the corner, with gum and shoelaces,
Has his own wisdom and pleasures, and may not be lured
To divulge them to you, for he has merely endured
Your appeal for his sympathy and your kind purchases;

Christmas Gift

Winter 1937 | Fiction

The big white flakes sank down from the sagging sky. A wet gray light hung over everything; and the flakes looked gray against it, then turned white as they sank toward the dark earth. The roofs of the few houses along the road looked sogged and black.