Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004) was an award-winning poet, a highly respected editor, and an experienced teacher of younger writers. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa and studied at the University of Northern Iowa where she earned a B.A. and at the University of Iowa where she received an M.A. in 1943. In that same year, Van Duyn married Jarvis Thurston with whom she founded Perspective magazine in 1947. She edited the quarterly with Thurston until 1975.
Van Duyn taught writing at a number of schools, including the University of Iowa, the University of Louisville, and at numerous writing workshops and conferences around the country. At Washington University, she taught in University College, the English Department, and in the Writing Program as a visiting Hurst professor in 1987. Van Duyn also served as poetry consultant for Washington University Libraries’ Modern Literature Collection in the mid-1960s and was instrumental in the acquisition of a number of the literary manuscript collections owned by Washington University Libraries.
She published ten volumes of poetry: Valentines to the Wide World (1959), A Time of Bees (1964), To See, To Take (1970), Bedtime Stories (1972),Merciful Disguises (1973), Letters From a Father and Other Poems (1982),Near Changes (1990), Firefall (1993), If It Be Not I (1993), and Selected Poems (2002). She received many awards for her poetry, including the prestigious Bollingen Award in 1970, the National Book Award for Poetry in 1971 for To See, To Take, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1991 for Near Changes.
From 1992-1993, she served as the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States. Van Duyn was also named a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1980 and in 1985 served as one of its chancellors. She received fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Washington University, Cornell College, the University of Northern Iowa, George Washington University, and the University of the South all awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters. Mona Van Duyn died of bone cancer on December 2, 2004.