Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives

Randall Jarrell

The Randall Jarrell Collection at UNCG encompases both manuscripts and published works by the author. A finding aid for the Manuscript collection can be found here, or by visiting the University Archives & Manuscripts website.

Short Bio

Randall Jarrell was born May 6, 1914 in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Owen and Anna Campbell Jarrell. When Jarrell was one year old his parents moved to Los Angeles where his father was employed as a photographer's assistant. His parents divorced and Randall and his younger brother, Charles moved back to Nashville with their mother. Randall also lived for a time with his grandparents in California. He returned to Nashville where he attended Hume-Fogg high school from 1927 to 1931. While in high school he developed his tennis skills and involved himself in dramatics and journalism.

In the fall of 1932 Jarrell entered Vanderbilt University where his professors included John Crowe Ransom and Robert Penn Warren. While attending the University, Jarrell wrote for its humor magazine, Vanderbilt Masquerader which he also edited during 1934/35. He completed his course work in three years by attending summer school at George Peabody College. Jarrell was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received his bachelor of arts degree in 1935.

Jarrell's first published poems appeared in the May, 1934 issue of The American Review. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Jarrell returned to Vanderbilt to attend graduate school. He earned money grading papers for two of John Crowe Ransom's classes. Jarrell's first book of poetry, Blood for a Stranger, was published in 1942. It was dedicated to Allen Tate. Jarrell left Austin in 1942 to join the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet, but he washed out as a pilot and ended up as a celestial navigation tower operator. His second book of poetry, Little Friend, Little Friend was published by Dial in 1945. Following his discharge from the Army early in 1946, Jarrell accepted an invitation from Margaret Marshall, literary editor at The Nation to come to New York as her temporary replacement. While in New York Jarrell taught a writing course at Sarah Lawrence College and became a good friend of Hannah Arendt who credited Jarrell for teaching her to appreciate English language poetry. When the year at The Nation was over, Jarrell accepted a teaching position beginning in the fall of 1947 at The Woman's College of the University of North Carolina located in Greensboro (now UNCG).

In 1951 his fourth book of poetry, The Seven-League Crutches appeared; Jarrell and his wife, Mackie Langham separated; and the academic year found him teaching at Princeton University. The summer following, Jarrell was in California where he met Mary von Schrader. They married in November, 1952. Still on leave from the Greensboro campus, Jarrell lectured at Indiana University and the University of Illinois before returning from Laguna Beach with his new wife and her two young daughters. Back in Greensboro in the autumn of 1953, Jarrell's literary efforts turned to criticism. Jarrell's only novel, Pictures from an Institution, a satire about a progressive woman's college, was published in 1954. In 1956 Jarrell served as Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress for two years. Following the appearance of Selected Poems in 1956, Jarrell would produce only four new poems and a handful of Rilke translations during his tenure at the Library of Congress. In 1958 the Jarrells returned to Greensboro and to academic life at the Woman's College.

Randall Jarrell was struck by an automobile on a dark road in Chapel Hill on the evening of October 14, 1965. He died instantly. Jarrell is buried in Guilford College, N.C. not far from the home he shared with his wife, Mary.