Jane Marvel Cooper, poet, Professor and Poet-in-Residence Emerita at Sarah Lawrence College, died peacefully at Pennswood Village, Newtown, P.A., on October 26th from complications due to Parkinson's Disease.
Jane Cooper joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College in 1950, where she remained as a teacher and poet in residence until her retirement in 1987. Together with Grace Paley, Jean Valentine, Muriel Rukeyser and others, Cooper helped develop and enhance the College’s writing program that became one of the most distinguished in the country. On her retirement after 37 years on the writing/literature faculty an endowed scholarship in her name was created to support a writing student.
“We are losing the origins of our inspiration,” said Ilja Wachs, literature faculty member, who knew Cooper well. Referring to Cooper and her colleagues Wachs continued: “They were giants of the morality, integrity, and creativity that shaped the College and made writing central to our conception of ourselves.”
On the subject of her teaching, Wachs said: “Jane had the perfect balance of listening, sensitivity, and articulating ideas. And she bridged the divide between literature and creative writing. Her courses were devoted to the study of American poetry but she had her students write original poetry in conference.”
Cooper lived most of her adult life in New York City. She also spent several summers at Yaddo and the McDowell Colony, working on her own poetry. Her first book, The Weather of Six Mornings, appeared in 1969 and was followed at intervals by four others: Maps and Windows (1974), Scaffolding: Selected Poems (1984), Green Notebook, Winter Road (1994) and The Flashboat: Poems Collected and Reclaimed (2000). She was named State Poet of New York for 1995-97.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin in 1946, she attended Vassar College 1942 to 1944. In 1953-54 she took a year off from Sarah Lawrence to earn a M.A. at the University of Iowa, where she studied with Robert Lowell and John Berryman. She received much recognition in her lifetime including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Jane Cooper was born in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1924. She spent her early childhood in Jacksonville, Florida and then moved with her family to Princeton in the mid-1930s. There she went to Miss Fine's School where, in her senior year, she won the Leslie Shear Poetry Prize for two works: "We are the Generation of War" and "I have Sung Solitary Various Worlds," early signs of future acclaim.
She is survived by her brother, John C. Cooper III, of Tucson, AZ, five nephews, two nieces and three grandnieces. A memorial service will be held at All Saints Church, Princeton on Saturday, November 3, at 1:00 p.m. Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, 40 W. Chesapeake Avenue, Suite 308, Towson, MD 21204.