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Conrad Aiken (1889–1973)

Author of Selected Poems

88+ Works 1,180 Members 20 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Conrad Potter Aiken was born on August 5, 1889 in Savannah, Georgia. He attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he edited the school newspaper, played baseball, and won a tennis doubles championship. In 1907, he entered Harvard University and became friends with T.S. Eliot. show more Knowing he was destined to be a poet from an early age, Aiken is paradoxically regarded by some critics as both a dazzling craftsman and by others as being long-winded and vague. However, many critics feel that he was central to American literature, a "literary period in himself." Aiken is perhaps best known for his 1930 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Selected Poems (1929), but he regarded the poem "Ushant" as his most satisfying work. In almost all of Aiken's works, his overriding concern has been to resolve what might be called a personal identity crisis in terms of the cosmic evolution of consciousness and one's relationship to the world at large. In the 1920s Aiken turned to short story writing to supplement his income. Overall, he published more than 50 titles, including 35 collections of poetry, five novels, one autobiographical essay, and several collections of short stories and criticism. Conrad Aiken died on August 17, 1973 at the age of 84. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Works by Conrad Aiken

Selected Poems (1961) 158 copies
A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry (1929) — Editor — 130 copies, 2 reviews
Twentieth-Century American Poetry (1944) — Editor, Preface & Contributor — 99 copies, 2 reviews
The Collected Short Stories of Conrad Aiken (1950) 75 copies, 3 reviews
Collected poems (1953) 45 copies
Ushant: An Essay (1952) 44 copies, 1 review
Silent Snow, Secret Snow {story} (1934) 32 copies, 1 review
Modern American Poets (1927) — Editor — 29 copies
Cats and Bats and Things With Wings (1965) 25 copies, 4 reviews
Blue Voyage (1927) 23 copies, 2 reviews
A Seizure of Limericks (1964) 19 copies, 2 reviews
Thee (1967) 17 copies
Great Circle (1933) 16 copies
Brownstone Eclogues (1942) 13 copies, 1 review
Preludes (1966) 13 copies
King Coffin (1935) 12 copies
The Kid (1947) 12 copies
A Heart for the Gods of Mexico (1976) 12 copies, 1 review
Skylight one, fifteen poems (1949) 11 copies
The soldier : a poem (1944) 9 copies
Preludes for Memnon (1931) 8 copies
Mr. Arcularis {play} (1957) 6 copies
Three novels 6 copies
Earth Triumphant (2009) 5 copies
Among the lost people (1934) 5 copies
The Divine Pilgrim (1949) 5 copies
Time in the rock (1936) 4 copies
Impulse 4 copies
Gehenna (1977) 4 copies
Costumes by Eros (1928) 4 copies
SCEPTICISMS (1919) 3 copies
Selected Poems 2 copies
Fremder Mond (1989) 2 copies
La derniere visite (2023) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost (2004) — Contributor — 1,062 copies, 3 reviews
Short Story Masterpieces (1954) — Contributor — 684 copies, 3 reviews
Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1944) — Contributor — 647 copies, 12 reviews
Great American Short Stories (1957) — Contributor — 499 copies, 2 reviews
A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (1954) — Contributor, some editions — 449 copies, 2 reviews
Fifty Great American Short Stories (1965) — Contributor — 442 copies, 3 reviews
The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson [Modern Library Classics] (1948) — Introduction, some editions — 407 copies, 2 reviews
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 296 copies
The Faber Book of Modern Verse (1936) — Contributor, some editions — 290 copies, 2 reviews
The 40s: The Story of a Decade (2014) — Contributor — 279 copies, 5 reviews
The Treasury of American Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 269 copies, 1 review
American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps (2009) — Contributor — 265 copies, 3 reviews
Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson [Edited by Conrad Aiken] (1993) — Editor — 232 copies, 1 review
This Is My Best (1942) — Contributor — 189 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 164 copies, 2 reviews
Vampires, Wine and Roses: Chilling Tales of Immortal Pleasure (1997) — Contributor — 157 copies, 2 reviews
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Contributor — 153 copies, 3 reviews
An Anthology of Famous American Stories (1953) — Contributor — 141 copies, 1 review
Poets of World War II (2003) — Contributor — 135 copies, 2 reviews
The Standard Book of British and American Verse (1932) — Contributor — 115 copies, 1 review
7th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F (1962) — Contributor — 94 copies, 1 review
American Fantastic Tales: Boxed Set (2009) — Contributor — 92 copies, 2 reviews
Bedside Book of Famous American Stories (1936) — Contributor — 72 copies
200 Years of Great American Short Stories (1975) — Contributor — 68 copies, 1 review
American Sonnets: An Anthology (2007) — Contributor — 66 copies
Great Tales of Fantasy and Imagination (1945) — Contributor — 56 copies
Masters of the Modern Short Story (1945) — Contributor — 47 copies
A Quarto of Modern Literature (1935) — Contributor — 40 copies
An American Omnibus (1933) — Contributor — 31 copies
60 Years of American Poetry (1996) — Contributor — 28 copies, 1 review
Pulitzer Prize Reader (1961) — Contributor — 27 copies
Studies in Fiction (1965) — Contributor — 22 copies, 1 review
The Looking Glass Book of Stories (1960) — Contributor — 21 copies
American Poetry, 1922 A Miscellany (2007) — Contributor — 19 copies, 2 reviews
Ellery Queen's Poetic Justice (1967) — Contributor, some editions — 18 copies
Uomini che non ho sposato (2016) — Contributor — 15 copies
Poetry in Crystal (1963) — Contributor — 15 copies
T.S. Eliot (Bloom's Major Poets) (1999) — Contributor — 12 copies
31 Stories (1960) — Contributor — 12 copies, 2 reviews
Favourite Scary Stories from Graveside Al (1996) — Contributor — 11 copies
A Treasury of Doctor Stories (1946) — Contributor — 9 copies
Great Tales of City Dwellers (1955) — Contributor — 8 copies
Men and Women: The Poetry of Love (1970) — Contributor — 8 copies
The Story Survey (1953) — Contributor — 6 copies
Breakdown and Other Thrillers (1968) — Contributor — 3 copies
Cricket Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 10, June 1978 — Contributor — 2 copies
The Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales of Horror (1964) — Contributor — 2 copies
Introduction to Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 1 copy
Cricket Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 12, August 1978 (1978) — Contributor — 1 copy
Cricket Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 3, November 1978 (1978) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Aiken, Conrad
Legal name
Aiken, Conrad Potter
Other names
Leake, Samuel, Jr.
Date of death
Burial location
Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, USA
Country (for map)
Savannah, Georgia, USA
Place of death
Savannah, Georgia, USA
Places of residence
Savannah, Georgia, USA
New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA
Concord, Massachusetts, USA
Washington, D.C., USA
Rye, New York, USA
West Brewster, Massachusetts, USA
Middlesex School, Concord, Massachusetts
Harvard University (AB|1911)
literary critic
short-story writer
Lorenz, Clarissa (wife)
Aiken, Joan (daughter)
Hodge, Jane Aiken (daughter)
Aiken, John (son)
Eliot, T. S. (friend)
Pound, Ezra (friend) (show all 9)
Lowry, Malcolm (friend)
Davies, W. H. (friend)
Santayana, George (teacher)
American Academy of Arts and Letters
Harvard Club
Awards and honors
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1950-52)
Gold Medal, National Institute of Arts and Letters
National Medal for Literature
Bollingen Prize (1956)
Poet Lauerate of Georgia
Shelley Memorial Award (first winner) (show all 13)
Gold Medal of Achievement, Brandeis University
St. Botolph Award
Huntington Hartford Foundation award
Academy of American Poets Fellowship
Guggenheim fellowship
Aiken Taylor Award
Georgia Writers Hall of Fame
Short biography
Conrad Aiken was an American poet, short story writer, critic and novelist. Most of Aiken's work reflects his intense interest in psychoanalysis and the development of identity. As editor of Emily Dickinson's Selected Poems in 1924, he was largely responsible for establishing her posthumous literary reputation. From the 1920s Aiken divided his life between England and the United States, playing a significant role in introducing American poets to the British audience.

He was the father of two gifted writers, Joan Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodge.



THE DEEP ONES: "Mr. Arcularis" by Conrad Aiken in The Weird Tradition (April 2016)


Check out The Poet in Granada: Homage to Lorca
jgonn | Apr 24, 2024 |
A generous helping of Conrad Aiken's critical writings, from 1915 to 1955, this volume goes a long way toward understanding the man, the critic, the poet, the writer. His humble, yet profound understanding of the artists he reviews is a delight to read- especially the three self-effacing, harsh critiques he does of his own work early on. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants an accessible entryway into the world of literary criticism and the gifted artists it examines.
gauchoman | Oct 24, 2023 |
Though the least accessible memoir I have ever read, Aiken's epic-length essay pulls me back every so often as if to say, "Oh, come on. You can do it. Finish the book this time." And I try. And I fail. But one of these days... (Which is what I keep saying about Moby Dick and Don Quixote.)
The book's obtuse nature aside, though, it is full of prose that is by turns mysterious and beautiful, surreal and stark, tender and brutal. Like many of Aiken's stories, you are entering a world you won't soon forget, the events compelling, even more so if you study about Aiken's life before tackling Ushant. In the end, I believe it was very brave of Aiken to bare his life to the world- even if it's sometimes done by way of riddles, ciphers and symbolism. That's one of the reasons this book is so fascinating and rewarding.
To get a fuller picture of Aiken's style and talent, check out the novel Blue Voyage. Similar themes and style, but more straightforward... well, most of the time...
… (more)
gauchoman | Oct 24, 2023 |
Reading Aiken’s BLUE VOYAGE again, and it makes more sense this time. Not sure if it just took a while to get used to Aiken’s style, or if I’m paying closer attention now, or if it’s because I understand the story better. Regardless, it’s becoming one of those books I’ll return to every couple of years just because it’s so deep, atmospheric and puzzling. Sex, death, eternity, spirituality, religion- it’s all there in one form or another.

As for structure and tone, it moves forward in time, over a series of days, but the voyage is fraught with flashbacks, internal and external conversations, dreams, letters, multiple streams of dialogue vying simultaneously for the reader’s attention. To read this book is to walk into the middle of conversations, stories, relationships and voyages. There’s no beginning and no end; it feels like we’ve been on the ship forever. Though countries are mentioned, the world is this ship, an island isolated from everything in the past or future.

What doesn’t make sense yet are the recurring images/thoughts of crucifixion. Why didn’t Aiken instead speak of self-sacrifice in terms of martyrdom or masochism? To be crucified is not necessarily something that one submits to willingly, like a martyr, but ending up on the cross has never been something one couldn’t avoid, if they put their mind to it. Maybe Aiken is simply implying that a commitment to something like marriage- matrimony or avoidance of the same figure prominently in this tale- is only worthwhile if someone is willing to give up freedom and comfort.

Marriage doesn’t fare well, as an institution, in the book. Smith’s marriage- Smith being a secondary character- failed years before; Demarest (the main character) is a confirmed but unfulfilled, bachelor; Cynthia, his ex-fiancé, is about to be married; one of the ship’s staff is married, but ready to cheat on his wife; the Major stays away from his wife for months at a time; the alluring Faubion is married, but on the cusp of a divorce due to her infidelity. None of the characters in Blue Voyage appear with their spouses- and of all of them, Demarest seems the closest to desiring a meaningful relationship. Yet he seems unable, due to fear or a lack of confidence, to effect the relationship he desires.

As for the characters, one of the most annoying is the geriatric Smith; more pathetic than lecherous, he is the personification of regret. Allegedly on the prowl for women, he is more talk than action. He flirts when he should be charming, charming when he should be genuine, friendly when he should instead be a friend. He seems to be the future that Demarest sees himself destined to become- unless this protagonist can overcome a fear of failure enabled by narcissism. Smith is the closest thing to a friend that Demarest has on board the ship, yet the elderly man is more of a co-conspirator in the quest for sex. To say that Smith is past his prime would be understatement; he is on death’s door, or might as well be, so unable is he to connect with the opposite sex.

I could go on and on, for BLUE VOYAGE is one of those books of which another book could be written, there is so much going on- the author’s psyche embedded everywhere one looks. His affairs, wordplay, poetry career, musings on religion, witnessed deaths in his family, and father-son dysfunction. It’s all there, and put together in such a way that I’ll never get to the bottom of it- not as long as his other puzzler, USHANT, is around.
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gauchoman | 1 other review | Oct 24, 2023 |



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