Virginia Hamilton Adair

Virginia Hamilton Adair

You could say that Virginia Hamilton Adair ’33 was destined to be a poet. Her father, Robert Browning Hamilton (also a poet), read to her when she was a baby. Adair composed her first poem at the age of two. By four, when her father would read rhyming verses, they would play a game: he would read the first verse and Adair would try to guess the second verse.

Adair wrote constantly throughout her life while raising three children with husband Douglass G. Adair and teaching English at California Polytechnic University.  While Adair published a few poems in the Saturday Review, the Atlantic, and the New Republic in the 1930s and 40s, she didn’t publish her first book of poetry until she was 83 years old and blind. “I think my poetry is a journal that I never kept,” she said in an interview with PBS after her first collection was published. “I never had enough perseverance to keep a journal.”

Her first collection, Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems, was published in 1996 and met with much acclaim. Adair's poetry has been compared to the works of T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost. Adair once told interviewers that she recalled listening to Eliot and Frost speak to her classes at Mount Holyoke, and was also influenced by Emily Dickinson (another Mount Holyoke alumna).

Adair’s poems in Ants on the Melon are inspired by her childhood home in New Jersey, the teaching life, her children, and the suicide of her husband. Virginia went on to complete two more collections of poetry, Beliefs and Blasphemies in 1998 and Living on Fire: A Collection of Poems in 2000, before her death in 2004.

Class Year: 
1933

Mount Holyoke College

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