Half a century ago Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded a song based upon the poem “Richard Cory.” If Simon had not written the song, maybe no one under the age of seventy would be aware of the poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). I have asked around. Everybody seems to know that the elegant and enviable Mr. Cory went home one night and put a bullet in his head. But few know anything about the poet. Robinson’s is one of the most amazing disappearing acts in the arena of American literature—comparable to Houdini “vanishing” an elephant on the stage of the Hippodrome Theatre in 1918. Theodore Roosevelt, Robinson’s chief patron, begged Houdini to stop dispatching elephants.
The New York Times called him “the superman among living American poets.”