Signs Lead to Birthplace Museum of Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet and Vanderbilt Graduate
NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in Clarksville today to recognize one of the nation’s most notable poets and authors and unveil new brown highway signs for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Guthrie, Kentucky. Warren, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author and the first Poet Laureate of the United States, was born just over the Tennessee border in Guthrie but grew up with a foot firmly in each state. His early education came at the Guthrie School in Kentucky, but he attended Clarksville High School and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
“Robert Penn Warren was at heart a teacher who recognized the importance of sharing his knowledge with future generations,” said Governor Bredesen. “Mr. Warren spent much of his life teaching poetry, writing influential literature textbooks and working to revolutionize the way literature was taught through the New Criticism method. I am pleased to join Governor Beshear to honor this literary giant and hope this effort will encourage more people to learn about Robert Penn Warren’s contributions to American literature.”
The new signs, reading “Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum,” are located on Interstate 24 at Exit 4 at the U.S. 79 interchange about eight miles southwest of Guthrie, where Warren was born in 1905. “Brown signs tell a traveler, ‘Here is something to be experienced,’” Gov. Beshear said. “In this case, we are encouraging new generations of Americans to experience and learn about one of the great literary figures of our time. These new signs are greatly appreciated by the city of Guthrie, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I am grateful to Governor Bredesen for his leadership on this issue.”The brown signs complement green highway signs already placed in both states on routes leading to Guthrie.
“We are pleased to have worked with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on this effort to install directional signs in both states for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Kentucky,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “Warren left a lasting impression on American culture and literature and I certainly hope more people visit the museum to learn about his life and work.”
Warren entered Vanderbilt University in 1921 at age 16 and was involved with two influential poetry groups – the Fugitives and the Agrarians. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1925 and later returned to teach literature at the University. Today, Vanderbilt is home to the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.
“Vanderbilt University is pleased to note this further commemoration of the life and legacy of one of its most accomplished graduates,” said Mona Frederick, executive director of Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center. “Robert Penn Warren is a key representative of the rich literary legacy of Vanderbilt University’s English department, a scholarly and creative legacy that lives on throughout the humanities at Vanderbilt today.”
Warren is the only person to have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for both poetry and fiction. The
first of his three Pulitzers was for his novel All the King’s Men in 1947. Pulitzer Prizes for poetry
followed in 1958 and 1979. During a career that spanned six decades, Warren produced 16 volumes ofpoetry, 10 novels, and a collection of short stories and published or co-authored a number of literary textbooks on poetry and fiction. He received numerous other awards, honorary degrees and commendations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. He was appointed America’s first official Poet Laureate in 1986.
The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. For more information about the home, contact Jeane Moore at 270-483-2683.