Rosanna Warren is an acclaimed American poet, literary critic, university professor and scholar. She has also been involved in the editing of collections of translated works by French, Italian and Ancient Greek poets. One of her recent books was
which was a 2008 title of literary criticism.
She was born on the 27th July 1953 in unusual and somewhat dangerous circumstances. Her father, the writer Robert Penn Warren, assisted his wife (Eleanor Clark, also a writer) to give birth to their new daughter on the kitchen floor of a rented cottage in Fairfield, Connecticut. She survived this ordeal of course, and the family found themselves living in a number of rural locations, not only in and around Connecticut, but also in France and Italy as Rosanna grew up. She attended Yale University, graduating in 1976 with a degree in art. Her early ambitions fluctuated between art and literature but she was perhaps swayed towards writing when she gained a Masters’ degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1980.
Her career over the next thirty years or so centred on teaching English at both Vanderbilt University and Boston University. She also taught in a number of medium security prisons during this time, encouraging prisoners to write poetry which she had published in a series of pamphlets. In 2012 she moved to the University of Chicago, taking up the rather grand sounding position of
Here she immersed herself in a wide range of research subjects including the relationship between modern and classical literature and the close correlation to be found between the visual arts and literature.
Warren’s first published work was a book of poetry called
published in 1984. This was reviewed generously in the New York Times and, thus encouraged, she brought out a second volume shortly after. Stained Glass won her the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1993. She has enjoyed a successful writing career, winning numerous awards including the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize in 1993, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit in Poetry. The Berlin Prize of 2006 enabled her to complete six months of funded study at the American Academy in Berlin.
Her output of poetry has been substantial and recent titles include a collection called Departure, published in 2003 and
Her works of translation include a joint project with her one time husband Stephen Scully, the man she married in 1981 but later divorced. This was a verse translation of The Suppliant Women, a classic piece written by the Ancient Greek tragedian Euripides. This was published by the Oxford University Press.
Her own poetry can probably be described as unstructured, prose-like in style. Some of it is quite hard to understand on first reading but the meaning surfaces eventually with much study. Here is an example of a poem which is ostensibly about a man standing in the middle of a stream, observing the banks either side of him, including the wildlife that make their home there. But it develops into something more, something resembling an observation of our human life cycle. It is called Man in Stream:
Rosanna Warren’s marriage to Stephen Scully produced two daughters and she is now in her mid-sixties.