John Haines

Poet Information

John Haines

About the Poet

American poet and essayist John Haines (1924 -2011) was born in Norfolk Virginia and studied art and painting at the National Art School, the American University, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art. In 1947, Haines bought a 160-acre homestead claim 80 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, intending to pursue painting. According to Haines, when his paints froze, he turned to writing.

His collections of poetry include Winter News (1966); The Stone Harp (1971); Cicada (1977); News from the Glacier: Selected Poems 1960-1980 (1982); New Poems 1980-1988 (1990), which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Award and the Western States Book Award; The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (1993); and For the Century’s End: Poems 1990-1999 (2001), among others. His poems are noted for their stark, spare imagery, and evocative rendering of the brutal beauty of his adopted home. Haines’s experiences trapping, hunting, and surviving as a homesteader in Alaska inform his work as both a poet and essayist.

According to Dana Gioia, “While one might read his early poetry as a subjective record of the time, the most accessible account comes from his two books of essays, Living Off the Country (1981) and The Stars, the Snow, the Fire (1989). These superbly-written collections of mostly autobiographical prose reveal the importance of the dream-like solitude the empty Northern wilderness provided the author.”

Other collections of Haines’s essays and autobiographical writing include Fables and Distances: New and Selected Essays (1996) and Descent (2010). Haines moved to San Diego in 1969 and lived in the lower 48 states for several years before returning to Alaska. He taught at numerous institutions including Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, and George Washington University. Named a Fellow by the Academy of American Poets, his other honors and awards included two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, an Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, the Alaska Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Congress.

John Haines died in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2011.

From the Poetry Foundation


Hampton Roads

Virginia City or County Affiliation

Norfolk, Virginia





Year of Birth

1924 -2011

Published Works or Performances

  • Winter-Light. Audio CD, 2008.
  • For the Century's End: Poems 1990 – 1999. University of Washington Press, 2001.
  • At the End of This Summer: Poems 1948–1954. Copper Canyon Press, 1997.
  • Fables and Distances: New and Selected Essays. Graywolf Press, 1996.
  • The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer. Graywolf Press, 1993.
  • New Poems 1980–88. Storyline Press, 1990.
  • The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-five Years in the Northern Wilderness. Graywolf Press, 1989.
  • News from the Glacier: Selected Poems 1960–1980. Wesleyan, 1982.
  • Living Off the Country: Essays on Poetry and Place. University of Michigan Press, 1981.
  • Twenty Poems, Unicorn Press, 1971.
  • The Stone Harp. Wesleyan, 1971.
  • Winter News. Wesleyan, 1966.

Selected Individual Poems or Performances

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John Haines