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Against the Grain: The Literary Life of a Poet


 _____ pp., Size, Paperback or Hardcover, French flaps?  ISBN: 978-928755-09-8
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“Reed Whittemore owns the only sort of immortality that matters to a writer which is to have written things that people remember years later.” – Garrison Keillor, from the Foreword

In this literary memoir, Reed Whittemore gives us glimpses into his wide-ranging life as poet, little magazine editor, critic and essayist, journalist, biographer, teacher, and more. Twice Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (now U.S. Poet Laureate), literary editor of The New Republic, Maryland Poet laureate, Whittemore’s alter ego R looks back over sixty years, speaking in a conversational voice that in his poetry and prose has become recognizably his own.


Reed Whittemore is the author of 20 books of poetry, criticism, biography, and literary journalism. His book of poems The Mother’s Breast and the Father’s Housewas a nominee for the National Book Award. In 2006, the Maryland Library Association honored him as Author of the Year. This year, Season of Waiting: Selected Poems 1946-2006, a translation into Hebrew by the distinguished Israeli poet Moshe Dor, was published in Israel. Reed lives with his wife Helen in College Park, Maryland.



Eric Larsen
‘Full Disclosure’ or a Memoir by Reed Whittemore

Merrill Leffler
Reed Whittemore: The Dark Comedian

Grace Cavalieri interviews
U.S. Poet Laureate Reed Whittemore, 1990.

“Brilliant and original poet, editor, teacher, satirist, ironist, wit, provocateur, literary lobbyist, anti-bureaucratic cultural bureaucrat, interdisciplinarian, his way of deepening, as distinguished from promoting, democracy has been to carry on its conversation in exemplary tropes and our country and our culture are the better for it.” – Victor Navasky, Publisher Emeritus, The Nation

“For what a long time Reed Whittemore has been a central figure in our national letters – his whole career has been one brave protest against dullness and stodginess.”  – X.J. Kennedy, Award-winning poet, author of The Lords of Misrule Poems, 1992-2001

“In Pure Lives and Whole Lives, Reed Whittemore has produced two of the finest books on the art of biography that I have ever read.” – Sherwin Nuland, Author of How We Die and Maimonides

“Where does one find a Reed Whittemore nowadays? A first-rate poet, critic, editor and teacher. An intolerance for cant. All that is valuable in the literary life shines in this single singular writer.” – Roger Rosenblatt, author of Lapham Rising: A Novel and Essayist for PBS News Hour

“I recognize a true Yankee in this man, the sort of Yankee Mark Twain would have loved: direct and modest to the point of wryness. Feel free to laugh but be sure to take him seriously.” – Henry Allen, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and author of Going Too Far Enough and What It Felt Like

Foreword by Garrison Keillor

Reed Whittemore 1919-2012
New York Times obituary
Washington Post obituary
Homily for Reed Whittemore

Additional information

Dimensions 9 × 6 in

Reed Whittemore

Publication Date

Oct. 2017

Page Count

360 + xx pp.


6 X 9