Allen Grossman; Descartes' Loneliness. (Brandeis; New Directions Books)

Allen Grossman, the renowned poet and scholar, died on Friday of complications from Alzheimer’s the New York Times reports. He was 82.

Grossman was born January 7, 1932 in Minneapolis. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard and received his PH.D in English at Brandeis. He went on to teach poetry, poetics, and humanities at Brandeis from 1957 to 1991, and later at Johns Hopkins.

Grossman has published several collections of poetry, including A Harlot’s Hire and Descartes’ Loneliness. Grossman also wrote extensively about poetics; his essays discussed the works of writers such as Milton, Wordsworth, and Whitman. Grossman received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship as well as the Bollingen Prize for Poetry from Yale University.

An obituary published today by Brandeis University describes Grossman as one of the most powerful poetic voices of the 20th century. “Few poets have matched Grossman’s depth and intellectual ambitions. For Grossman, poetry was a way of apprehending the meaning of being at its most fundamental level, and instrument for measuring the wholeness and integrity of the cosmos, and the brokenness and longing of all things human.”

The Poetry Foundation celebrated Grossman’s proclivity towards philosophical questions throughout his work, writing that he “occupies a unique position in contemporary American letters.”

Invested in lyric poetry’s impulse to embody experience precisely, Grossman’s poetry also displays a distrust of its ability to fix feeling accurately. In books like A Harlot’s Hire (1962) and The Woman on the Bridge over the Chicago River (1979), Grossman began to formulate his poetics in poems that were at once narrative and philosophical. Grossman’s The Ether Dome was described by critic William Doreski for the Literary Review as representing “a long devotion to poetry not as a quasi-career but as a way of understanding the world.”

You can read some of Grossman’s poetry here.

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