John Ciardi, in full John Anthony Ciardi, (born June 24, 1916, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.—died March 30, 1986, Edison, New Jersey), was an American poet, translator, and etymologist. While primarily known as a poet, he also translated Dante's Divine Comedy, wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, and directed the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont.
Ciardi not only wrote 21 books of poetry but achieved the distinction of having earned more than one million dollars-not all from poetry!
Ciardi was educated at Bates College (Lewiston, Maine), Tufts University (A.B., 1938), and the University of Michigan (M.A., 1939). He served as an aerial gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps (1942–45) and then taught at universities until 1961. Thereafter he devoted himself full-time to literary pursuits. Ciardi served as poetry editor of the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972. He felt that interaction between audience and author was crucial, and he generated continuous controversy with his critical reviews. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
John Ciardi's first book of poems, Homeward to America (1940) was followed by war poems titled Other Skies (1947). His entire corpus, Collected Poems edited by his biographer, Edward Cifelli, was published in 1997. A long useful critical work, How Does a Poem Mean?, was issued in 1959. With Isaac Asimov he wrote Limericks. He not only translated Dante's Divine Comedy but wrote The Monster Den, humorous verse inspired by his family, as well as other fun books for children.
After years of teaching English-at Harvard (1946-1953) and Rutgers (1953-1961)-Ciardi resigned his tenured faculty position for an independent career. He served as a highly popular poetry editor of the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972. His occasional public television broadcasts were supplemented by his weekly National Public Radio series begun in 1980 as "A Word in Your Ear."
A National Teachers Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children was presented in 1982. He died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday 1986.
"In 1956, Ciardi received the Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1982, the National Council of Teachers of English awarded him its award for excellence in children's poetry." He also won American Platform Association's Carl Sandburg Award in 1980.
- Homeward to America, 1940. Poems.
- Other Skies, 1947. Poems.
- Live Another Day, 1949. Poems.
- Mid-Century American Poems, 1950. Anthology edited by Ciardi.
- From Time to Time, 1951. Poems.
- "The Hypnoglyph", 1953. Short story in Fantasy & Science Fiction, using the pseudonym "John Anthony."
- The Inferno. 1954. Translation.
- As If: Poems New and Selected, 1955.
- I Marry You, 1958. Poems.
- 39 Poems, 1959.
- The Reason for the Pelican, 1959. Children's poems.
- How Does a Poem Mean?, 1959. Poetry textbook.
- Scrappy the Pup, 1960. Children's poems.
- In the Stoneworks, 1961. Poems.
- The Purgatorio, 1961. Translation.
- I Met a Man, 1961. Children's poems.
- The Man Who Sang the Sillies, 1961. Children's poems.
- In Fact, 1962. Poems.
- The Wish-Tree, 1962. Children's story.
- You Read to Me, I'll Read to You, 1962. Children's poems.
- Dialogue with an Audience, 1963. Saturday Review controversies and other selected essays.
- John J. Plenty and Fiddler Dan, 1963. Children's poems.
- Person to Person, 1964. Poems.
- You Know Who, 1964. Children's poems.
- The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved, 1966. Children's story in verse.
- This Strangest Everything, 1966. Poems.
- The Monster Den, 1966. Children's poems.
- An Alphabestiary, 1967. Poems.
- The Paradiso, 1970. Translation.
- Someone Could Win a Polar Bear, 1970. Children's poems.
- Lives of X, 1971. Verse autobiography.
- Manner of Speaking, 1972. Saturday Review columns.
- The Little That Is All, 1974. Poems.
- Fast & Slow, 1975. Children's poems.
- How Does a Poem Mean?, 1975. Revised second edition. With Miller Williams.
- The Divine Comedy, 1977. All three sections published together.
- Limericks: Too Gross or Two Dozen Dirty Dozen Stanzas, 1978. With Isaac Asimov.
- For Instance, 1979. Poems.
- A Browser's Dictionary, 1980. Etymology.
- A Grossery of Limericks, 1981. With Isaac Asimov.
- A Second Browser's Dictionary, 1983. Etymology.
- Selected Poems, 1984.
- The Birds of Pompeii, 1985. Poems.
- Doodle Soup, 1985. Children's poems.
- Good Words to You, 1987. Etymology.
- Poems of Love and Marriage, 1988.
- Saipan: The War Diary of John Ciardi, 1988.
- Blabberhead, Bobble-Bud & Spade, 1988. Collection of children's poems.
- Ciardi Himself: Fifteen Essays in the Reading, Writing, and Teaching of Poetry, 1989.
- Echoes: Poems Left Behind, 1989.
- The Hopeful Trout and Other Limericks, 1989. Children's poems.
- Mummy Took Lessons and Other Poems, 1990. Children's poems.
- Stations of the Air, 1993. Poems.
- The Collected Poems of John Ciardi, 1997. Edited by Edward M. Cifelli.
- Someone Could Win a Polar Bear