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|Subject: Theodore Weiss, Poet, Professor and Journal Editor|
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Date Posted: April 19, 2003 2:15:52 EDT
Theodore Weiss, a poet with a bent for narrative verse who was also an influential critic and teacher of English literature and creative writing at Princeton University, died on Tuesday at his home in Princeton. He was 86.
With his wife, Renee Karol Weiss, Mr. Weiss edited Quarterly Review of Literature for nearly 60 years. Besides publishing work by major poets, including William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, E. E. Cummings and Ezra Pound, the quarterly is credited with reviving interest in poets who were out of literary fashion.
At first a poet in residence at Princeton, Mr. Weiss was a faculty member for more than 20 years. He wrote more than 12 books of poems, as well as literary criticism, including "The Breath of Clowns and Kings" (Atheneum, 1971), a study of Shakespeare's early comedies and histories, and "The Man From Porlock: Engagements, 1944-1981" (Princeton University Press, 1982), a collection of essays. He also edited "Selections From the Notebooks of Gerard Manley Hopkins" (New Directions, 1945).
Probably his best-known poetic work was "Gunsight" (New York University Press), a long verse narrative first published in 1962 and the outcome of nearly two decades of intermittent work. Mr. Weiss described the poem as "an interior monologue" that recounts the "sensations and memories" of a wounded American soldier in World War II as he loses consciousness before undergoing surgery:
bent over you, falling,
falling, through the seasick smell.
His other books of poetry include "The World Before Us: Poems, 1950-1970" (Macmillan, 1970), a collection of his early work, and "Fireweeds" (Macmillan, 1976), a collection of shorter poems.
In 1982 Mr. Weiss returned to the long poetic narrative with "Recoveries" (Macmillan), the story of an American art conservator restoring a fresco in an Italian church. The conservator engages in a dialogue about the painting's history with one of the medieval figures depicted in it.
Mr. Weiss also wrote "A Slow Fuse: New Poems" (Macmillan, 1984) and "A Sum of Destructions" (Louisiana State University Press, 1995), as well as several other poetry collections.
Theodore Russell Weiss was born on Dec. 16, 1916, in Reading, Pa., and earned a bachelor's degree from Muhlenberg College in 1938 and a master's from Columbia in 1940. He held a number of teaching positions at various universities before becoming poet in residence at Princeton in 1966. The next year Princeton appointed him professor of English and creative writing, a post he held until his retirement in 1987.
Mr. Weiss was the focus of the documentary "Living Poetry: A Year in the Life of a Poem," made by Harvey Edwards in 1987. It traced the creation and revision of "Fractions," one of Mr. Weiss's works. After the poem was revised further in 1995, Mr. Edwards made a sequel to the film.
Mr. Weiss is survived by his wife.
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