Conrad Aiken (1889-1973) was an American poet and writer of short stories. His works include The House of Dust: A Symphony (1920), Selected Poems (1929), Conversation (or Pilgrim's Progress) (1940), The Soldier (1944), The Kid (1947), and UShant: An Essay (1952). He won a Pulitzer Prize for Selected Poems. Unlike the Freudian authors of his time, he believed in a deeper psyche and the works of Carl Jung, and was a practicing Unitarian.
Life and Works
Conrad Aiken Potter was born on August 5, 1889, in Savannah, Georgia, to a New York doctor father and a Unitarian minister mother, but his father killed his mother and himself when Aiken was 11. This was greatly psychologically disturbing to him, and one of his chief influences along with his Harvard philosophy professor, George Santayana. He attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1912, along with T.S. Eliot.
He contributed to Dial magazine, where he met Ezra Pound, and published his first volume, Earth Poetry, in 1914. This established him as a poet, which he cited as an excuse to avoid the World War One draft. He continued to work as a poet before World War Two, marrying three times, crossing the Atlantic many times, publishing essays in Scepticisms (1919), and winning the 1930 Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems. He was greatly influenced in this time by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and many of his novels, such as The Great Circle (1933), involve characters in need of psychoanalysis. He was likely better known for his short stories than his poems in the style of music. While much of them, especially "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," include characters that are parallel to Aiken's psyche, he only published a complete replica of himself in his autobiography, UShant. He died August 17, 1973, in Savannah, Georgia.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall, New York, 1993.
- "Aiken, Conrad." Georgia Encyclopedia: Arts and Culture. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/conrad-aiken-1889-1973
- "Conrad Aiken." Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/conrad-aiken
- "Conrad Aiken - Bio." Poem Hunter. https://www.poemhunter.com/conrad-potter-aiken/biography/
- "Aiken, Conrad (1889-1973)." Harvard Square Library. June 26, 2002. http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/conrad-aiken-unitarian-prodigy-poet/
- "Aiken, Conrad." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.