On the morning of April 24, 1905 in Guthrie, Kentucky, a nervous father Robert Franklin Warren waited for his first son to be born. At 7 o'clock the tired Anna Ruth Penn Warren proudly showed her husband of less than an ear a brand new baby boy. Then the 13-year-old schoolteacher recorded her son's birth in the large family Bible:
"Robt Penn Warren Guthrie, Todd Co Ky April 24 - 1905"
Since Warren's father was busy working at the bank and Ruth taught school in their home, they followed southern tradition in hiring a nurse. R. Warren's earliest memory would be of his mother bathing him, for he still remembers the tile pattern on the floor. He also remembers his father savoring the rings of lines of poetry, and often reciting anything from dramatic verse to romantic poetry. Warren was raised by two voracious readers, and practically had a library in his home. Warren grew up on a tobacco farm listening to rich tales from both of his confederate grandfathers. Warren's artistic flare was nurtured by these stories. Seelay Bradshaw helped Ruth take care of Warren's two younger siblings, since Warren was already independent at age 7. Seelay Bradshaw was more than a servant for the Warren family, so much that Warren later called her his second mother.
Later that year the smart but small "Rob Penn", as his mother called him, began attending the Guthrie school. While attending there disaster hit. His father came down with both pneumonia and typhoid fever after being taken to the hospital for gallbladder surgery. As Warren later says, that year was uncertainty of all kinds, [a] horrible period." Warren's father was also very emotional, and never expressed how he felt, which at times made it even harder on the family. Surprisingly though, Warren's father had a great relationship with his father in-law, so much that Robert grew jealous.
However, his parents were a "perfect love match" and Warren would say later that his family was "very close, very close." But soon, he would need all of this love and support.
In 1920 Warren entered high school, where he received academic as well as military training. He received awards for many things, including arts competition. Here he also published his first poem, "Prophecy."
In 1923 Warren, hanging out with a group of tough, heavy drinkers, attempted suicide. Luckily his good friend Charlie Moss found Warren unconscious, (a chloroform soaked towel at hand), on the floor of his apartment. However, during these two upsetting years Warren published poems in Driftwood Flames, The Fugitive, Double Dealer, and the New Republic. In 1925, his life continued to have difficult trials and successful moments. He met Emma, "Cinnia." He also tries to transfer to Yale, but failed. However, he did enter New College as a Rhodes scholar. The following year his eyes caused many tribulations. But once again, his life became a roller coaster and the same year he secretly married Cinnia Brescia in Sacramento, CA. In 1934 Warren had his left eye removed. In 1951 he divorced Cinnia and married Eleanor Clark a year later. His second marriage produced two children, Rosanna Phelps Warren and Gabriel Penn Warren. He taught at many great universities including LSU. Here he founded and edited The Southern Review, a literary magazine. This magazine was designed to show recent criticism, literary review, and political opinions. Additionally, Cleanth Brooks and Charles W. Pipkin assisted in this accomplishment. Over the next 38 years Warren had a successful life and won many awards. He visited out of the country often, mainly France and Italy. On February 26, 1986, Warren was recognized as the nation's first Poet Laureate. He also recieved other awards such as the Pulitzer Prize and many other honors. In 1989 on August 21st, his first grandson, Noah Penn Warren, was born. Less than a month later, on September 15, Robert Penn Warren died in West Wardsboro, Vermont. Warren was an accomplished Louisiana writer.
To view more about his style, technique and thoughts on writing, click here.