John Ciardi was born in 1916 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Italian immigrants. He attended Bates College and Tufts University and received his master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1939. He was the author of more than 40 volumes of poetry, wrote an acclaimed translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, was a regular commentator for National Public Radio on his program A Word in Your Ear, worked as editor and contributor for Saturday Review, served in the Air Force, taught at Harvard, directed a widely respected writers conference in Vermont, appeared on radio and television, lectured throughout the country, and, of course, wrote children’s books. He noted once that “You don’t have to suffer to be a poet; adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.” He began writing children’s poetry as a way of getting his own children interested in reading, and his 16 books for children include The Man Who Sang the Sillies, The Reason for the Pelican, Doodle Soup, You Know Who, The Monster Den, and Someone Could Win a Polar Bear. In 1982 John Ciardi won the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. He died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday, 1986, at his home in New Jersey.
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