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Jean Valentine, American Poet and Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Dies at 86

Jean Valentine, the celebrated American poet, died in New York on December 29, 2020. Valentine’s daughter, Rebecca Chace, told The New York Times that the cause of death was due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.


Jean Valentine was 86.

In a career spanning over six decades, Valentine published 14 collections of poetry.

Born on April 27, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, Valentine received a Master of Arts degree from Radcliffe College. Her debut poetry collection, Dream Barker, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1965. Valentine went on to publish several poetry collections, including River at Wolf (1992), and Little Boat (2007).


Valentine was the New York State Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010 and was awarded the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry for Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003. In 2010, she became a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the collection, Break the Glass (2010), which was described as “a collection of imaginative poems in which small details can accrue great power and a reader is never sure where any poem might lead”. In 2014, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her for exceptional accomplishment in literature.

Valentine also taught writing and poetry at several academic institutions, including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and New York University. She was awarded the Bunting Institute Fellowship, the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Shelley Memorial Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the 2017 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry.

Valentine was married to the late American historian James Chace, who died in 2004. She is survived by two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca.