David Wagoner

David Russell Wagoner (b.1926) is highly regarded as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest. He also has a strong reputation as a teacher of writing and served as editor (1966-2002) of the distinguished literary journal Poetry Northwest for nearly 36 years. Among his published works are 24 collections of poems—two of which were finalists for the National Book Award—as well as ten novels.

Born in Massillon, Ohio and raised in Whiting, Indiana from the age of seven, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University. He received an M.A. in English from the Indiana University in 1949 and has taught at the University of Washington since 1954, having moved there on the suggestion of friend and fellow poet Theodore Roethke.

The natural environment of the Pacific Northwest is the subject of much of David Wagoner's poetry. Citing his move from the Midwest as a defining moment, Wagoner soon became best known as a poet and novelist whose work was attentive to place, environment, and the natural world, and dealt with the corrupting influences of modern society.

Wagoner's poetry collections include Good Morning and Good Night (2005); The House of Song (2002); Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems (1999); Walt Whitman Bathing (1996); Through the Forest: New and Selected Poems (1987); First Light (1983); Landfall (1981); Collected Poems, 1956-1976 (1976), and In Broken Country (1979). His collection Who Shall Be the Sun? (1978) is a collection of poems based on the folklore, legends, and myths of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and Plateau regions. Other collections of poetry include Sleeping in the Woods (1974), Riverbed (1972), New and Selected Poems (1969), Staying Alive (1966), The Nesting Ground (1963), A Place to Stand (1958), and Dry Sun, Dry Wind (1953). His novels include The Escape Artist (1965), which was adapted into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He is also the editor of Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63 (1972).

Wagoner was selected to serve as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978 and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Pushcart Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the English-Speaking Union prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Arthur Rense Prize. He has also received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wagoner continues to write and publish poetry in periodicals, anthologies, and books—his latest being After the Point of No Return, in 2012. He currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island.

Go here to explore the finding aid for the David Wagoner Papers at Washington University.

Modern Literature Collection: The First Fifty Years