Edwin A. Robinson (1869-1935)
Through the assistance of President Theodore Roosevelt, who admired his poetry, Robinson became a clerk in the New York Custom House in 1905. Robinson resigned in 1909 to devote himself to writing. He became best known for short poems in which he presents character studies.
Three of his 13 volumes of poetry won Pulitzer Prizes -Collected Poems in 1922, The Man Who Died Twice in 1925, and Tristram in 1928. Robinson’s characters are citizens of the imaginary community of Tilbury Town. Among the most familiar characterizations are those in “Richard Cory,” “Miniver Cheevy,” “Flammonde,” and “Mr. Flood’s Party.” In these poems, the characters seem doomed to failure and sufferings. Yet Robinson was not a pessimistic writer. He indicated clearly that his characters suffer because they ask too much from life and themselves.
Robinson’s continuing theme of the need for humility and complete self-honesty also appears in his philosophical poem. The Man Against the Sky (1916). Robinson also wrote long narrative poems Merlin (1917) and Lancelot (1920), along with Tristram, from a connected series telling the legends of King Arthur.
Robinson was also one of the American poets of the nineteenth century who developed the colloquial style and the ironic poetry. Poems like “Richard Cory” deal with the social problems of the nineteenth century American frustration, loneliness, neurosis, and what is called the ‘failure of success’! Robinson is that critical minded realist who exposes the irony underlying the material prosperity of American.