A childhood tragedy would haunt poet and author Conrad Aiken all of his life, and provide the psychological foundation for much of his writing.
Perhaps Georgia’s most famous poet, Aiken was born in Savannah. When he was only 11 years old, his father killed his mother and then committed suicide.
Later, Aiken attended Harvard and met T.S. Eliot, a lifelong friend. In 1914, he published his first collection of poetry. He also edited a collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and is credited with establishing her posthumous reputation as a major poet. In 1930, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Selected Poems, and a National Book Award in 1953.
Aiken returned to Savannah in the 1960s but refused an offer to live in his parents’ home, choosing instead to live next door. In 1973, Gov. Jimmy Carter designated him Georgia’s poet laureate. Aiken died that same year and is buried in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, next to his parents whose tragic death so many years earlier had shaped a life that began on August 5, 1889, Today in Georgia History.