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Home North Carolina Guilford County City of Greensboro Historical Markers Randall Jarrell 1914-1965

Randall Jarrell 1914-1965

New Garden Road at West Friendly Avenue, Greensboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 5' 23.3232", -79° 53' 19.752"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Poet & literary critic of national acclaim. Taught at UNC-Greensboro from 1947 to 1965. His grave is 120 yards southwest."
     Poet, critic, and teacher, Randall Jarrell was born on May 6, 1914, in Nashville, Tennessee, to Anna and Owen Jarrell. Attending Vanderbilt University as a day student, Jarrell was captain of the tennis team and editor of the campus humor magazine. He studied under Robert Penn Warren and John Crowe Ransom, and ultimately graduated magna cum laude. When Ransom accepted a position at Kenyon College, Jarrell followed, teaching English courses and coaching the tennis team. After two years at Kenyon, Jarrell moved to the University of Texas, where he married colleague Mackie Langham in 1940.

     Jarrell’s first book of poems, Blood for a Stranger, was published in 1942. At the same time he was gaining notoriety as a “fierce and fiercely humorous critic of other poets.” Hoping to become a pilot, Jarrell entered the Army Air Force in 1942. Failing to qualify, he served as a celestial navigation instructor for the remainder of the war. Jarrell’s wartime service provided him with material enough for two more volumes of poetry, Little Friend (1945) and Losses (1948).

     In the fall of 1947 Jarrell began teaching at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC-Greensboro), where he would live and work for the remainder of his life, taking brief leaves of absence to lecture at other universities. While in Greensboro, he developed a national reputation as a literary critic, won the National Book Award for The Woman at the Washington Zoo (1960), and married his second wife, Mary von Schrader (who died in 2007). Suffering from mental illness in 1965, Jarrell was staying in the hospital in Chapel Hill recovering from a suicide attempt. While there, and while walking at dusk along the side of the road he was struck and killed by a car. The death was ruled accidental, but still raises questions. Randall Jarrell left behind nine volumes of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a novel, and translations of Goethe and Chekhov. In 1996 he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

William H. Pritchard, Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life (1990)
University of North Carolina at Greensboro Library website: http://www.uncg.edu/lib/arch/jarrell/
American Academy of Poets website: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/9
Southern Illinois University website: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/jarrell/jarrell.htm
American Poems website: http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/Randall-Jarrell

Randall Jarrell 1914-1965 Historical Marker Location Map, Greensboro, North Carolina