David Ferry
Photo: Charles Quigg '09

David Ferry, Class of 1946

Doctor of Literature

David Ferry is a poet, critic and teacher, and, most recently, a translator of classical texts. The Sophie Chantal Hart Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College, he is the author of 12 volumes of poems and poetic translations.

In 1959 he published his first book, The Limits of Mortality, a study of Wordsworth’s major poems. The following year On the Way to the Island, the first book of his own poems, appeared; two further volumes were published in 1983 and 1993. In 1992, he published his first important “verse rendering” of the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, possibly the oldest written story in existence. Further translations have included the Odes and Epistles of Horace, and the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil.

Ferry’s 1999 collection of new and selected poems and translations, Of No Country I Know, was awarded a number of prizes, including the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. He is a fellow of the Academy of American Poets and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the Phi Beta Kappa Poet at Harvard in 1996 and a winner of the Teasdale Prize for Poetry in 1995, among other honors.

Originally a member of the Class of 1946, Ferry graduated from Amherst College in 1948, after interrupting his studies to join the military, where he served as a sergeant in the Army Air Force from 1943 to 1946. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, and went on to Wellesley, where he taught for 37 years. He was married for 47 years to the scholar and teacher Anne Davidson Ferry, who died in February.

As one critic has said of him: “He is that very rare being, a poet at once courageous and judicious, a poet fully responsive to the pain that invests the lives of ordinary people, if there are such, people who become extraordinary when David Ferry evokes them.”

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