Richard Poirier, a founder of Library of America, Dies at 83

Historians in the News

Richard Poirier, a prolific and populist cultural critic who founded a literary journal, Raritan: A Quarterly Review, and who was a founder of Library of America, the nonprofit publisher of American classics, died in Manhattan on Saturday. He was 83.

The cause was injuries suffered in a fall in his home, said a friend, the poet Frederick Seidel.

Mr. Poirier (pronounced to rhyme with “warrior”) was an old-fashioned man of letters — a writer, an editor, a publisher, a teacher — with a wide range of knowledge and interests. He was a busy reviewer for publications from The New York Review of Books to The London Review of Books, and his reviews could sting.

His own works were ambitious and forward-looking and idiosyncratic, addressing the teaching profession, the notion of style in American literature and the relationship between high and low culture. He wrote about Walt Whitman and Wallace Stevens, but also George Balanchine and Bette Midler. He wrote admiringly of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Norman Mailer and the Beatles, finding in all of them a motivating sense of performance that made their otherwise disparate work comparably brilliant....
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