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The Beat: Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren is primarily known as the author of the great American novel All the King’s Men, but he’s also a well-respected poet, and was the USA’s first Poet Laureate. Though he grew up in Guthrie, KY, he crossed the state line to go to high school in Clarksville, TN. In 1921, he began his studies at Vanderbilt University and joined a group of poets who called themselves the Fugitives. He went on to publish over 40 books, and he is the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry.

Links:

Read "Vision" and other poems by Robert Penn Warren at Poets.org

Biography and poems at the Poetry Foundation

Online Resources (Library of Congress Web Guide)

Transcript
Alan May:

Welcome to The Beat, a poetry podcast produced by Knox County Public Library. Today, you’ll hear a poem by Robert Penn Warren. Robert Penn Warren is primarily known as the author of the great American novel All the King’s Men, but he’s also a well-respected poet, and was the USA’s first Poet Laureate. One thing I love about Warren, in addition to his dark vision, is his ability to write in rhyme and meter, while using what was, at his time, everyday language. Here’s the poem “Vision” by Robert Penn Warren.

“Vision”

I shall build me a house where the larkspur blooms

In a narrow glade in an alder wood,

Where the sunset shadows make violet glooms,

And a whip-poor-will calls in eerie mood.

I shall lie on a bed of river sedge,

And listen to the glassy dark,

With a guttered light on my window ledge,

While an owl stares in at me white and stark.

I shall burn my house with the rising dawn,

And leave but the ashes and smoke behind,

And again give the glade to the owl and the fawn,

When the grey wood smoke drifts away with the wind.

Alan May:

That was “Vision” by Robert Penn Warren. Robert Penn Warren was born in 1905 in Guthrie, Kentucky. He crossed the state line to go to high school in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1921, he began his studies at Vanderbilt University and joined a group of poets who called themselves the Fugitives. He went on to publish over 40 books, and he is the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry. You can find Robert Penn Warren’s books in our online catalog or call us at the Reference Desk at Lawson McGhee Library. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for “The Beat.”

Various voices:

Thank you for listening to and sharing this podcast from Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Music for this podcast is by Chad Crouch. Find all our podcasts at pods.knoxlib.org, and explore life-changing resources at www.knoxlib.org. That's "knox l-i-b." Go to our "keep in touch" page to sign up for newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make us your essential connection for life-long learning and information.

About the Podcast

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Podcasts of Knox County Public Library

About your hosts

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Melissa Brenneman

Melissa listens to hours of podcasts on most days. She started the habit with the intention of taking long walks, but podcasts proved to be more addicting than exercise. She records, edits and mixes podcasts for the library.
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Alan May

Alan May works as a reference librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. In his spare time, he reads and writes poetry. May's most recent books are Dead Letters (2008) and More Unknowns (2014). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, New Orleans Review, Plume, and others.