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Glenn Ward Dresbach (1889–1968)

Glenn Ward Dresbach was an internationally known poet with ten books to his credit when he moved to Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1941. After his arrival in the Ozarks, Dresbach continued to write and publish poetry, including numerous poems about the Ozarks.

Glenn Ward Dresbach was born near Lanark, Illinois, on September 9, 1889, to William Henry Dresbach and Belle Weidman Dresbach. His parents were farmers, and he was an only child. Dresbach graduated from Lanark High School and attended a special three-year program at the University of Wisconsin from 1908 to 1911, where he served as editor of Wisconsin Magazine and won a national intercollegiate award for poetry.

Soon after graduating from college, Dresbach began a long career of accounting and finance. He served as an accountant with the Panama Railroad in the Canal Zone from 1911 until 1915. He then worked in a comparable capacity with the Phelps-Dodge Corporation of Tyrone, New Mexico, from 1915 to 1921.

In September 1917, Dresbach left his work to join the American effort in World War I. He enlisted in the army at Camp Cody, New Mexico, and within ten days, he was promoted to private first class; a month later, he was promoted to sergeant first class in the medical corps. Dresbach was soon commissioned as a first lieutenant in the sanitary corps and transferred to Camp Meade, Maryland, where he quickly rose to the rank of captain. His promotion to major was approved before the war ended, but Dresbach chose to return to his job at Phelps-Dodge.

On January 29, 1921, Dresbach married Mary Angela Boyle and shortly thereafter began a new job as an auditor and credit manager with the Peyton Packing Company of El Paso, Texas. He served in this capacity until he accepted a position as budgetary comptroller with Mandel Brothers Department Store in Chicago, Illinois, in 1923. Dresbach left Mandel Brothers in 1932 and, for the next twelve years, lectured and wrote poetry. From 1944 until his retirement in 1952, Dresbach served as an executive accountant with the Bank of Eureka Springs. His first wife died in 1943; on April 9, 1944, Dresbach married author Beverly Githens.

Dresbach was widely published during his lifetime. He published eleven books of poetry between 1916 and 1950, four of which, including his Selected Poems (1931), were published by Henry Holt and Company. The Collected Poems, 1914–1948, of Glenn Ward Dresbach was published in 1949 by Caxton Publishers. His poetry appeared in more than 200 anthologies and textbooks. In addition, Dresbach’s poetry was published in dozens of magazines and journals, such as Atlantic Monthly, American Mercury, and the Christian Science Monitor. More than forty of his poems appeared in Poetry, one of the most prestigious poetry journals in America.

During his career, Dresbach received more than 100 honors and awards, including the George Sterling Memorial Prize, American Literary Association Prize, Poetry World Prize, Hamlin Garland Prize, and United States Poet Laureate International. He and his second wife were honored with a gold medal distinguishing them as “Outstanding Literary Couple” by President Diosdado Macapagal of the Philippines in 1965.

Despite such popularity and accolades, Dresbach is now considered a minor poet. Reviewers consistently praised his power of observation, sincerity, and authenticity while noting that even his best poems failed to be intellectually or aesthetically striking. No book-length biography of Dresbach has been produced, and his poetry rarely appears in anthologies today.

Dresbach died on June 28, 1968, in Eureka Springs and is buried in the Fayetteville National Cemetery in Washington County.

For additional information:
Bourland, Richard D. “Lanark’s Poet of the World.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly 24 (Summer 1979): 9–14.

“Dresbach, Glenn Ward.” In Contemporary Authors: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Authors and Their Works. vols. 5–8. Barbara Harte and Carolyn Riley, eds. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1969.

“Dresbach, Glenn Ward.” In Who Was Who Among North American Authors: 1921–1939. vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1976.

“Dresbach, Glenn Ward.” In Who Was Who in America with World Notables. vol. 5. Chicago: Marquis Who’s Who, 1973.

Ford, Edsel. “Glenn Ward Dresbach: The New Mexico Years, 1915–1920.” New Mexico Quarterly 34 (Spring 1964): 78–96.

Menn, Thorpe. “A Famous Mid-Western Poet Reviews His Long Career.” Kansas City Star. September 23, 1962, p. 1B.

———. “High Distinction Today to an Ozark Poet.” Kansas City Times. June 15, 1963, p. 46.

Monroe, Harriet. Review of The Wind in the Cedars and Star-Dust and Stone by Glenn Ward Dresbach. Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 36 (April 1930): 43–46.

Phillip Howerton
North Arkansas College

Last Updated 2/6/2013

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