Poet, dramatist, critic and longtime New Yorker poetry editor HOWARD MOSS was born on this date in New York City (d: 1987); Moss was editor at the New Yorker from 1948 until his death. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971 and the National Book Award in 1972 for “Selected Poems“. His last book of poems, “New Selected Poems” (1986) won the Lenore Marshall-National Prize for Poetry.
He is credited with discovering a number of major American poets, including Anne Sexton and Amy Clampitt. ”He was a tremendous force for poetry in this country,” said Galway Kinnell. Many prominent poets published their early work with Mr. Moss, including Kinnell, James Dickey, Anne Sexton, Theodore Roethke, Richard Wilbur, Sylvia Plath and Mark Strand.
W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman co-wrote a famously concise clerihew in Howard’s honor:
TO THE POETRY EDITOR OF THE NEW YORKER
Is Robert Lowell
According to Edmund White, Moss was closeted, a notion exploited in White’s thinly disguised roman à clef, The Farewell Symphony, in which the character “Tom” is a prominent New York poetry editor; however, the “closet” characterization is at odds with the memory of literary friends who remember Moss as openly gay. Moss died of a heart attack related to AIDS.