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Mona Van Duyn

Mona Van Duyn as born in 1921 in Waterloo, Iowa. She grew up in the small town of Eldora, Iowa (pop. 3,200) where she read voraciously in the town library and wrote poems secretly in notebooks from her grade school years to her high school years. Van Duyn earned a B.A. degree from Northern Iowa University in 1942, and an M.A. from the University of Iowa in 1943, the year she married Jarvis Thurston. She and Thurston studied in the Ph.D. program at Iowa and Van Duyn went on to teach at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

In 1946 she was hired as an instructor at the University of Louisville when her husband became an assistant professor there. Together they began Perspective: A Quarterly of Literature in 1947 and shifted that journal to Washington University in St. Louis when they moved there in 1950. Van Duyn was a lecturer in the University College adult education program until her retirement in 1990. In 1983, a year after she had published her fifth book of poems, she was named an adjunct Professor in the English Department and became the "Visiting Hurst Professor" in 1987, the year she was invited to be a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Van Duyn was widely honored for her writing. The National Foundation for the Arts chose her as one of the first five poets to receive a grant. She held a Guggenheim fellowship in 1971-1972. In 1980 the Academy of American Poets voted her a fellowship and named her a chancellor in 1985. In 1983 the National Institute of Arts and Letters elected her a member. She won every major U.S. prize for poetry, including the National Book Award for Poetry for To See, To Take (1971), the Bollingen Prize (1971), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (1989), and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Near Changes (1991). Van Duyn was named the U.S. poet laureate between 1992 and 1993, the first woman ever to be appointed. However despite her accolades, her career fluctuated between praise and obscurity.

Mona Van Duyn died of bone cancer on December 2, 2004. Full Biography

United States