Hyam Plutzik was born in Brooklyn on July 13, 1911, the son of recent immigrants from what is now Belarus. He spoke only Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian until the age of seven, when he enrolled in grammar school near Southbury, Connecticut, where his parents owned a farm. Plutzik graduated from Trinity College in 1932, where he studied under Professor Odell Shepard. He continued graduate studies at Yale University, becoming one of the first Jewish students there. His poem “The Three” won the Cooke Prize at Yale in 1933.

After working briefly in Brooklyn, where he wrote features for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Plutzik spent a Thoreauvian year in the Connecticut countryside, writing his long poem, Death at The Purple Rim, which earned him another Cooke Prize in 1941, the only student to have won the award twice. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army Air Force throughout the Amerian South and in Norwich, England, experiences that inspired many of his poems. After the war, Plutzik became the first Jewish faculty member at the University of Rochester, serving in the English Department as the John H. Deane Professor of English until his death on January 8, 1962. Plutzik’s poems were published in leading poetry publications and literary journals. He also published three collections during his lifetime: Aspects of Proteus (Harper and Row,1949); Apples from Shinar (Wesleyan University Press, 1959); and Horatio (Atheneum, 1961), which made him a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that year. To mark the centennial of his birth, Wesleyan University Press published a new edition of Apples from Shinar in 2011.

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Letter from a Young Poet (2016)

Written on the eve of America’s entry into World War II, this remarkable Letter From a Young Poet discloses a young Jewish American man’s spiritual and literary odyssey through rural Connecticut and urban Brooklyn during the turbulent 1930s.  In an epic letter to trusted teacher Odell Shepard, Plutzik challenges the growing menace of Nazism that he views looming from afar.