John Crowe Ransom distinguished himself as one of the South’s foremost poets and literary critics of the twentieth century, cultivating a poetic style that celebrated rural, agrarian life as an antidote to the increasing complexity of modern society. In the process, he helped formulate a new method of literary analysis, the New Criticism, which advocated close reading of texts with attention to their form and internal meaning. His students included such prominent literary figures as Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, and E. L. Doctorow. Ransom’s poetry, which he revised extensively throughout his lifetime, offers a concise representation of his ideas about art, life, and the vocation of poets.
The Complete Poems contains every poem that Ransom wrote, including his three books—Poems About God, Chills and Fever, and Two Gentlemen in Bonds—as well as the additional poems that appeared in the three editions of his Selected Poems, one of which won the National Book Award in 1964. The volume also collects poems that appeared only in newspapers and magazines, as well as a handful of unpublished poems that Ransom left in manuscript at the time of his death.
This variorum edition establishes the definitive text of each poem, collating Ransom’s elaborate revisions. Detailed annotations identify sources, parse obscure allusions, and highlight the archaic language that constitutes a significant aspect of Ransom’s poetic technique. The volume also contains introductions to each of Ransom’s separately published volumes, giving the background of their composition and an account of their contemporary reception. Edited by Ashby Bland Crowder, this volume constitutes a definitive scholarly edition of John Crowe Ransom’s poetry, providing an essential resource for the study of twentieth-century American literature.
John Crowe Ransom (1888—1974) taught at Vanderbilt University and Kenyon College, where he founded the Kenyon Review. The author of many books of poetry and essays, Ransom won the National Book Award for his Selected Poems in 1964.
Ashby Bland Crowder is the Peace Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Hendrix College. He is the author of Wakeful Anguish: A Literary Biography of William Humphrey, as well as the editor of Far from Home: Selected Letters of William Humphrey and two volumes of The Complete Works of Robert Browning.