Richard Howard was born in 1929 in Cleveland, received a B.A. from Columbia in 1951 and did graduate work at Columbia University and the Sorbonne. He is the author of fourteen books of poetry, including Untitled Subjects (1969), Trappings (1999), and Talking Cures (2002), as well as the critical study Alone with America and the critical prefaces of the anthology Preferences. Inner Voices: Selected Poems, 1963-2003 and Paper Trail: Selected Prose, 1965-2003 were compiled and released jointly by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2004. His most recent collection, Without Saying, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award in poetry.
After working for several years as a lexicographer, he became a translator from the French and has published over 200 translations, including works by Cioran, Stendhal, and Roland Barthes; in 1983 he received the American Book Award for his translation of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal. In 1970 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his third book of poems, Untitled Subjects, and latterly received the Academy of Arts and Letters Literary Award for his books of poems. His comprehensive critical study Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950, originally published in 1969, was reissued in an expanded edition in 1980. In 1996 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. He is Professor of Practice in the School of the Arts of Columbia University. He has also received the PEN Translation Medal and the French-American Prize and was designated an Officier de L'Ordre National du Mérite by the French government in 1982. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters since 1983, he has served as the Poet Laureate of New York State (1994-1997) and the President of PEN American Center (1978-1980). After serving as Luce Visiting Scholar at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale in 1983, as Ropes Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, and as University Professor of English at the University of Houston (1987-1997), he became Professor of Writing at Columbia in 1997.