I have been driving thru Guthrie Kentucky from my hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee to visit family in Ohio my whole life. I had no idea until a recent trip when I noticed a small sign on the side of the highway that Guthrie was home of the famous poet Robert Penn Warren. When I made the drive to New Orleans this week I decided to stop in Tennessee for one night and I stopped by the house of the poet on the drive.
Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, on April 24, 1905. He graduated Guthrie School at 15 and his parents felt he was too young to enter college so he attended Clarksville High School for one year before being admitted to Vanderbilt University at the age of 16. He went on to graduate school at the University of California and Yale. In October, 1928 he entered New College at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar receiving his B.Litt. in the spring of 1930.
Warren was a poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He taught at Vanderbilt University, Southwestern College, University of Minnesota, Yale University, and Louisiana State University. While at LSU he founded and edited, along with Cleanth Brooks and Charles W. Pipkin, the literary quarterly, The Southern Review. As a poet, he was appointed the nation’s first Poet Laureate, February 26, 1986. He published sixteen volumes of poetry and two—Promises: Poems, 1954-1956 and Now and Then: Poems, 1976-1978—won Pulitzer Prizes. Warren published ten novels. One novel, All the King’s Men, won a Pulitzer Prize. Two novels, All the King’s Men and Band of Angels were made into movies. He is the only author to have won the Pulitzer for both fiction and poetry.
It was really cool to discover his history in the local area and see his house in Kentucky where he grew up.