Richard Howard

Born: 1929

Ohio connection: Birth


Born in 1929, Richard Joseph Howard holds a distinguished place in contemporary American literature for his work as a poet, critic, and translator.  He was an only child, and could read before the age of three.  He developed an early love of poetry, and decided by age four that he wanted to be a poet. After graduating from Shaker Heights High School, he attended Columbia University, where he received a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952.  Howard studied at the Sorbonne as a Fellow of the French Government, 1952-53. He then began to devote his career to the translation of contemporary French literature. He has translated more than seventy works of prose and poetry by many authors, including Claude Simon, Andre Breton, Jules Renard, Andre Gide, Jean Cocteau, Albert Camus, Charles Baudelaire, Charles De Gaulle, and Honore de Balzac. Howard is the author of more than twelve books of poetry, including Untitled Subjects (1969), Trappings (1999), and, Talking Cures (2002), as well as the critical study Alone with America and the critical prefaces of the anthology Preferences. Howard’s poems are often dramatic monologues in which figures from history and literature speak directly to the reader. The voices of Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, and other prominent creative artists are recreated as they speak about their live and times. As a translator, he is credited with introducing modern French fiction—particularly examples of the Nouveau Roman—to the American public, while his translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal won a National Book Award in 1984.  As a critic, Howard’s collection of essays entitled Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950 was praised for its comprehensive overview of recent American poetry. Notably, his work as a poet earned Howard a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his collection Untitled Subjects. Howard has been a Professor of Writing at Columbia since 1997. He reviews regularly for The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times, and many other literary magazines.

Guggenheim fellow, 1966-67; Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, 1969; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1970; Pulitzer Prize for poetry, 1970, for Untitled Subjects; Levinson Prize, Poetry magazine, 1973; Cleveland Arts Prize, 1974; American Book Award nomination, 1979, for translation of A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters medal for poetry, 1980; American Book Award, 1983, for translation of Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire; PEN American Center medal for translation, 1986; National Endowment for the Arts fellow, 1987; France- America Foundation Award for translation, 1987; New York State Poet Laureate, 1994-96; Lifetime Achievement Award, National Book Critics Circle, 2003; National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 2004, for Paper Trail: Selected Prose, 1965-2003; Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry, 2004, for Inner Voices: Selected Poems, 1963-2003; Ordre National du Mérite, government of France; PEN Translation medal; Academy of American Poets fellowship; MacArthur Foundation fellowship. In 2016 Howard received the Philolexian Society Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.