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Guy Carleton Drewry, Virginia’s Poet Laureate, Dies at 90

August 4, 1991

ROANOKE (AP) _ Guy Carleton Drewry, a minister’s son who became Virginia’s poet laureate although he had to supported himself as a railroad statistician, died Saturday after battling pneumonia. He was 90.

He had little formal education, but lectured at the University of Virginia and elsewhere on creative writing and literature.

″I never graduated from anything,″ Drewry told an interviewer in 1980. ″Prior to the time I was 21, I had no access to a library. I really don’t understand myself where the poetry came from.″

Drewry died at Community Hospital of Roanoke Valley. The cause of death was described as congestive heart failure brought on by pneumonia.

He published six volumes of poetry and his work appeared in numerous anthologies. His third book, ″A Time for Turning,″ won the 1952 Poetry Awards Foundation Prize as the previous year’s best poetry volume in English.

″It came out of the air,″ he said of his work. ″I felt like a violin somebody was playing on.″

The Virginia General Assembly voted in 1970 to name him the state’s poet laureate for life.

Drewery was never able to earn a living as a poet. He spent 44 years as a statistician with the Norfolk & Western Railway, writing after work.

″The best way to achieve and retain anonymity is to become a poet,″ he said.

The youngest of eight children, Drewry was the son of a Methodist minister. His school attendance was spotty as the family moved from one rural town to another.

″Here one learns, by being alone, to be less lonely,″ he wrote of that time.

He started writing seriously at 18. He sold his first poem at 22 to the magazine, The Dial.

″I read novels, got certain literature out of my father’s churches, behind the pulpit,″ Drewry said in the 1980 interview. ″I read hymnals a good deal, which may account for my fascination with rhythm and rhyme. It was the music of it that interested me.″

His work appeared in such publications as The Nation, New Republic, Yale Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, Poetry, Queen’s Quarterly, Voices, Saturday Review and the Saturday Evening Post.

His first volume, ″Proud Horns,″ came out in 1933.

″Very few poets writing today ... have surpassed Carleton Drewry in that simple inevitable choice of word and phrase which is the heart of pure lyricism,″ The New York Herald Tribune Book Review said of ″Proud Horns.″

It was followed by ″The Sounding Summer,″ ″A Time of Turning,″ ″The Writhen Wood″ and ″Cloud Above Clocktime.″ His last volume, ″To Love That Well,″ was published in 1975.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret Elizabeth McDonald Drewry; one daughter, Barbara Louise Anderson of Orange, Calif., and one son, Guy Carleton ″David″ Drewry Jr. of Raleigh, N.C.; and two grandsons.


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