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Mona Van Duyn

Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004) was an award-winning poet, a highly respected editor, and an experienced teacher of younger writers. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and studied at the University of Northern Iowa where she earned a B.A. and at the University of Iowa where she received an M.A. in 1943. In that same year, Van Duyn married Jarvis Thurston, with whom she founded Perspective magazine in 1947; she edited the quarterly with Thurston until 1975.

Van Duyn taught writing at several schools, including the University of Iowa, the University of Louisville, and at numerous writing workshops and conferences around the country. At Washington University in St. Louis, she taught in the School of Continuing & Professional Studies, the English Department, and in the Writing Program as a visiting Hurst professor in 1987.

Mona Van Duyn, posing beside her portrait by Herb Weitman.

Van Duyn published ten volumes of poetry: Valentines to the Wide World (1959), A Time of Bees (1964), To See, To Take (1970), Bedtime Stories (1972), Merciful Disguises (1973), Letters From a Father and Other Poems (1982), Near Changes (1990), Firefall (1993), If It Be Not I (1993), and Selected Poems (2002). She received many awards for her poetry, including the prestigious Bollingen Award in 1970, the National Book Award for Poetry in 1971 for To See, To Take, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1991 for Near Changes.

From 1992-1993, Van Duyn served as the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States. Van Duyn was also named a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1980 and served as one of its chancellors in 1985. She received fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Washington University, Cornell College, the University of Northern Iowa, George Washington University, and the University of the South all awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters. Mona Van Duyn died of bone cancer on December 2, 2004.

Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers

The Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers include hundreds of letters of correspondence from and to literary figures, publishers, editors, scholars, family, and friends.

Modern Literature Collection's 50th Anniversary

Explore digitized material from the Mona Van Duyn Papers as part of the Modern Literature Collection’s 50th anniversary digital exhibit.

Perspective Archive

Perspective magazine was founded in 1947 by Jarvis Thurston and his wife, the poet Mona Van Duyn. The Archive consists of manuscripts, correspondence, and editorial matters for individual issues of Perspective, as well as the magazine’s business records.

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