Donald Justice

Donald Rodney Justice
Born (1925-08-12)August 12, 1925
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Died August 6, 2004(2004-08-06) (aged 78)
Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.
Nationality United States
Fields Poetry
Institutions University of Florida
Syracuse University
Alma mater University of Miami
University of Iowa
Notable awards Guggenheim Fellowship
Pulitzer Prize

Donald Justice (August 12, 1925 – August 6, 2004) was an American poet and teacher of writing. In summing up Justice's career David Orr wrote, "In most ways, Justice was no different from any number of solid, quiet older writers devoted to traditional short poems. But he was different in one important sense: sometimes his poems weren't just good; they were great. They were great in the way that Elizabeth Bishop's poems were great, or Thom Gunn's or Philip Larkin's. They were great in the way that tells us what poetry used to be, and is, and will be."[1]

Life and career

Justice grew up in Florida, and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami in 1945. He received an M.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1947, studied for a time at Stanford University, and ultimately earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1954. He went on to teach for many years at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the nation's first graduate program in creative writing. He also taught at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.[2][3][4]

Justice published thirteen collections of his poetry. The first collection, The Summer Anniversaries, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets in 1961; Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1980. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.

His honors also included grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. His Collected Poems was nominated for the National Book Award in 2004. Justice was also a National Book Award Finalist in 1961, 1974, and 1995.

In his obituary, Andrew Rosenheim notes that Justice "was a legendary teacher, and despite his own Formalist reputation influenced a wide range of younger writers — his students included Mark Strand, Rita Dove, James Tate, Will Schmitz, Jorie Graham and the novelist John Irving."[5] His student and later colleague Marvin Bell said in a reminiscence, "As a teacher, Don chose always to be on the side of the poem, defending it from half-baked attacks by students anxious to defend their own turf. While he had firm preferences in private, as a teacher Don defended all turfs. He had little use for poetic theory..."[6]

Of Justice's accomplishments as a poet, his former student, the poet and critic Tad Richards, noted that "Donald Justice is likely to be remembered as a poet who gave his age a quiet but compelling insight into loss and distance, and who set a standard for craftsmanship, attention to detail, and subtleties of rhythm."[7]

Justice's work was the subject of the 1998 volume Certain Solitudes: On The Poetry of Donald Justice, a collection of essays edited by Dana Gioia and William Logan.[8]

Published work

Incident in the rose garden [9]

Poetry collections

Essay and interview collections

Edited volumes

Justice edited posthumous selections of unpublished poetry for four poets: Weldon Kees, Henri Coulette, Raeburn Miller, and Joe Bolton.


See also


  1. Orr, David (August 29, 2004). "'Collected Poems': The Ironist of Nostalgia". The New York Times.
  2. Saxon, Wolfgang (August 10, 2004). "Donald Justice, 78, a Poet Admired for Precise Beauty". The New York Times.
  3. Date of birth taken from the Social Security Death Index.
  4. "Notable University of Iowa Alums". University of Iowa.
  5. Rosenheim, Andrew (August 18, 2004). "Donald Justice: Award-winning poet revered by his peers and influential to a wide range of younger writers". The Independent.
  6. Bell, Marvin (Winter 2004–2005). "A Garland for Donald Justice: A Reminiscence". The Iowa Review. 34 (3): 177–178. JSTOR 20151937.
  7. Richards, Tad (2005). "Donald Justice," Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry (Greenwood Press). ISBN 978-0-313-32381-2. Online version retrieved November 9, 2007.
  8. Gioia, Dana and Logan, William (1998). Certain Solitudes: On The Poetry of Donald Justice (University of Arkansas Press). ISBN 978-1-55728-475-4 .
  9. english textbooks

External links

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