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This report is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

J.V. Cunningham Clive Wilmer
The American poet and scholar, J. V. CUNNINGHAM, died on 30 March.

James Vincent Cunningham was born in Maryland in 1911 but grew up mainly in Montana. His family was poor, working-class and Roman Catholic. He began his academic career as a Latin scholar and the influence of that language-particularly of late medieval Latin-is to be felt in most of his subsequent work. In his early twenties, however, he was drawn to the English department at Stanford by the poetry and the teaching of Yvor Winters. He graduated in 1934. In 1937, after a period of wandering and occasional journalism, he took up a teaching post at Stanford. He left California in 1945 and, after a series of appointments in different parts of the United States, he became Professor of English at Brandeis University, Mass., where he stayed until his retirement in 1976.

Cunningham wrote little and was addicted to brevity of statement. Indeed, it is possible to say that the main motive of his writing was the need to compress-to reduce experience or knowledge to a few essential words. His Collected Poems and Epigrams-published in Britain by Faber in 1971-contains less than 150 pages and few of the poems are more than a page in length. The Collected Essays (1976) comprise a mere 442 pages of text. These books bring together nearly everything he wrote. He was silent for most of the 1970s but recently began writing again. A few new epigrams have appeared in periodicals ...


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