Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 April 20, 1982) was an American poet, writer and the Librarian of Congress. He is associated with the modernist school of poetry. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times.

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Archibald MacLeish Quotes

A man who lives, not by what he loves but what he hates, is a sick man.

A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard-by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.

Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, there is no reason either in football or in poetry why the two should not meet in a man's life if he has the weight and cares about the words.

Democracy is never a thing done. Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing. What is necessary now is one thing and one thing only that democracy become again democracy in action, not democracy accomplished and piled up in goods and gold.

Freedom is the right to one's dignity as a man.

I think you have to deal with the confused situation that we're faced with by seizing on the glimpses and particles of life, seizing on them and holding them and trying to make a pattern of them. In other words, trying to put a world back together again out of its fragmentary moments.

It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived for better or worse in life, and to a man in life, his life can be no more absurd than it can be the opposite of absurd, whatever that opposite may be.

Journalism is concerned with events, poetry with feelings. Journalism is concerned with the look of the world, poetry with the feel of the world.

Journalism wishes to tell what it is that has happened everywhere as though the same things had happened for every man. Poetry wishes to say what it is like for any man to be himself in the presence of a particular occurrence as though only he were alone there.

Spring has many American faces. There are cities where it will come and go in a day and counties where it hangs around and never quite gets there. Summer is drawn blinds in Louisiana, long winds in Wyoming, shade of elms and maples in New England.

The American mood, perhaps even the American character, has changed. There are few manifestations any longer of the old American self-assurance which so irritated Dickens. Instead, there is a sense of frustration so perceptible that even our politicians have attempted to exploit it.

The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life - to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity.

The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.

There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream.

There are those, I know, who will reply that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is. It is the American Dream.

To separate journalism and poetry, therefore-history and poetry-to set them up at opposite ends of the world of discourse, is to separate seeing from the feel of seeing, emotion from the acting of emotion, knowledge from the realization of knowledge.

What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.

What is more important in a library than anything else - than everything else - is the fact that it exists.

Quotes originally compiled by

Archibald MacLeish Chronological Biography

1892 Born 7 May in Glencoe, Illinois

1907 Attends Hotchkiss school until 1911

1911 Attends Yale, majoring in English, until 1915

1915 Graduates from Yale and enters Harvard Law School

1916 Marries Ada Hitchcock

1917 Leaves for France and serves in the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit during World War I

1919 Graduates at the head of his class from Harvard Law School

1920 Member of the editorial board of Fortune magazine until 1939

1924 The Happy Marriage

1925 The Pot of Earth

1926 Streets on the Moon

1928 The Hamlet of A. MacLeish published

1929 Serves as Librarian of Congress until 1944

1930 New Found Land published

1932 Conquistador published

1933 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Conquistador

1939 America Was Promises published

1942 Assistant director of the Office of War Information until 1943

1944 Roosevelt appoints MacLeish assistant secretary of state for cultural and public affairs

1945 Leads the U.S. delegation to the organizational meeting of UNESCO

1946 Serves as assistant head of the U.S. delegation to UNESCO

1948 Actfive and Other Poems published

1949 Harvard's Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory until 1962

1949 Serves as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard until 1962

1952 MacLeish's Collected Poems published, earning MacLeish a second Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize

1952 The Trojan Horse broadcast and published

1953 Elected president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

1958 J.B. published, earning him a Pulitzer Prize for drama

1963 Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College until 1967

1965 Receives an Academy Award for his work on the screenplay of The Eleanor Roosevelt Story

1967 Herakles

1982 Dies in Boston, Massachusetts

Original chronology compiled by

Archibald MacLeish Biography

Archibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois, on May 7, 1892. First educated at Hotchkiss School, MacLeish later studied at Yale and Harvard Law School, where he was first in his class. Although he focused his studies on law, he also began writing poetry during this time. In 1916 he married Ada Hitchcock.

At the onset of World War I, MacLeish volunteered as an ambulance driver, and later became a captain of field artillery. Upon returning home, he worked in Boston as a lawyer but found that the position distracted him from his poetry. He resigned in 1923, on the day that he was promoted to partner in the firm. MacLeish then moved his family to France and began to focus on writing. There he was to befriend fellow writers such as Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, and Ezra Pound. During the next four years he published four books of poetry, including The Happy Marriage (1924) and The Pot of Earth (1925). In 1928 MacLeish returned to America, where he began research for his epic poem Conquistador by travelling the steps and mule-ride of Cortez's army through Mexico. MacLeish won the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts in 1932.

From 1930 to 1938, MacLeish worked as an editor at Fortune magazine. During that period, he wrote two radio dramas to increase patriotism and warn Americans against fascism. MacLeish also displayed increasing passion for this cause in his poems and articles. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded him to accept an appointment as Librarian of Congress, a position he kept for five years. MacLeish thoroughly reorganized the Library's administrative offices and established the Library's series of poetry readings. At the same time, MacLeish served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and assistant director of the Office of War Information, specializing in propaganda. In 1944 he was appointed assistant Secretary of State for cultural affairs. After World War II, MacLeish became the first American member of the governing body of UNESCO, and chaired the first UNESCO conference in Paris.

In 1949 Archibald Macleish retired from his political activism to become Harvard's Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, a position he held until 1962. From 1963 to 1967 he was Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. Macleish continued to write poetry, criticism, and stage- and screenplays, to great acclaim. His Collected Poems (1952) won him a second Pulitzer Prize, as well as the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize. J.B. (1958), a verse play based on the book of Job, earned him a third Pulitzer, this time for drama. And in 1965 he received an Academy Award for his work on the screenplay of The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. Archibald MacLeish died in April 1982 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Original biography compiled by

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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