Weiss was an award-winning poet, editor and literary critic
By Patricia Allen
Princeton NJ -- Theodore Weiss, an award-winning poet, editor, literary critic and emeritus professor at Princeton, died April 15 at age 86 after a battle with Parkinson's disease. A celebration of his life and work will be held at a later date.
Weiss came to the University in 1966 as a poet-in-residence. He was appointed professor of English and creative writing at Princeton in 1968 and in 1977 was named the William and Anne S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature.
Reginald Gibbons, a 1969 Princeton graduate who studied with Weiss as a student and is now chair of the English department at Northwestern University, called him "one of the great teachers."
"Professor Weiss was a dream teacher in that as a freshman I received from him that intense intellectual engagement and teaching that I had fantasized would be available at Princeton," Gibbons said. "My relationship with him as a student and then later as an adult was a transforming experience. He had a huge influence on me. I will always be grateful to Ted and Princeton for giving me that gift."
Weiss retired from the University in 1987, but continued to publish poems, articles and the QRL Poetry Book Series. The QRL, founded in 1943, was nationally acclaimed as one of the most influential and cutting-edge literary publications, regarded as an independent voice for poetry, fiction and criticism. Eventually, the magazine solely devoted its contents to poetry, later publishing volumes of poems once a year.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Weiss was at the center of the poetry world, according to many of his colleagues. Edmund (Mike) Keeley, former director of the creative writing pro-gram at Princeton and professor of English, said Weiss' legacy in the literary world is not only as a poet, but as an influential and credible critic with an ability to identify the most important figures in poetry. Keeley said Weiss discovered new talent and defined the significance and contribution of established poets to American and international literature. Some credited the QRL with revitalizing interest in poets who had fallen into obscurity and raising the prominence of others. The QRL published works by William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings and Ezra Pound, along with important foreign writers.
"He was absolutely honest in his judgment of poetic talent," Keeley said. "He could be very tough, but he was also very generous, particularly when he was giving credit to unknown, young and aspiring poets."
Weiss also was an award-winning poet whose works include more than a dozen books of poetry. His poems were widely published in prominent literary magazines and anthologies.
Weiss received his B.A. from Muhlenberg College in 1938 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1940. Between 1941 to 1966, he taught at the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina, Yale University and Bard College.
A recipient of numerous honors and fellowships, Weiss earned the Brandeis Creative Arts Award in Poetry in 1977, the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award for 1988-89 and the Oscar Williams and Gene Durwood Award for Poetry for 1997. He and Renée received the 1997 PEN/Nora Magid Lifetime Achievement Award.
Weiss was the subject of an award-winning 1987 documentary, "Living Poetry: A Year in the Life of a Poem." Filmmaker Harvey Edwards followed Weiss throughout the year and filmed the creation and evolution of his poem, "Fractions." Weiss again was featured in Edwards' 1995 follow-up film, "Living Poetry 2: Yes, With Lemon," which chronicled subsequent revisions to "Fractions."
The Bulletin is published weekly during the academic year, except during University breaks and exam weeks, by the Office of Communications. Second class postage paid at Princeton. Postmaster: Send address changes to Princeton Weekly Bulletin, Office of Communications, Princeton University, 22 Chambers St., Suite 201, Princeton, NJ 08542. Permission is given to adapt, reprint or excerpt material from the Bulletin for use in other media.
Subscriptions. The Bulletin is distributed free to faculty, staff and students. Others may subscribe to the Bulletin for $28 for the academic year (half price for current Princeton parents and people over 65). Send a check to Office of Communications, Princeton University, 22 Chambers St., Suite 201, Princeton, NJ 08542.
Deadline. In general, the copy deadline for each issue is the Friday 10 days in advance of the Monday cover date. The deadline for the Bulletin that covers May 19-June 1 is Friday, May 9. A complete publication schedule is available at deadlines or by calling (609) 258-3601.
Editor: Ruth Stevens
Calendar editor: Carolyn Geller
Staff writers: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Steven Schultz
Contributing writers: Patricia Allen, Karin Dienst, Jerry Price, Eric Quinones
Photographer: Denise Applewhite
Design: Mahlon Lovett, Laurel Masten Cantor, Margaret Westergaard
Web edition: Mahlon Lovett