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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Viereck dies

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. --Peter R. Viereck, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who was considered an important figure in the development of modern conservatism before becoming disheartened by the movement, has died after a long illness, according to Mount Holyoke College where he was a longtime professor. He was 89.

Viereck won the Pulitzer for poetry in 1949 for his first book of poems, "Terror and Decorum: Poems 1940-1948."

He received Guggenheim Fellowships in both poetry and history and was the author of articles, essays, and books about history, cultural and political analysis, and poetry, including "Metapolitics: From the Romantics to Hitler," "Conservatism Revisited: The Revolt against Revolt, 1815-1949," and "Strict Wildness: Discoveries in Poetry and History."

"Professor Viereck excelled in many fields. He was an excellent poet, a superb historian, and an extraordinary teacher who touched the lives of generations of Mount Holyoke students," school President Joanne V. Creighton said in a statement. "He was a profound thinker who helped influence the course of American culture and political life."

Viereck was disappointed by the reaction to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., who gained notoriety for his communist witch hunts in the 1950s, according to a 2005 New Yorker magazine profile, "The First Conservative: How Peter Viereck Inspired -- and Lost -- a Movement."

Viereck was quoted as saying in the article that McCarthy was "a menace" because "he corrupted the ethics of American conservatives, and that corruption leads to the situation we have now.

"It gave the conservatives the habit of appeasing the forces of the hysterical right and to looking to these forces -- and appeasing them knowingly, expediently. I think that was the original sin of the conservative movement, and we are all suffering from it," Viereck said.

Viereck was born in New York City and attended the Horace Mann School for Boys before earning a bachelor's, master's and doctorate in history from Harvard.

After a stint in the Army during World War II, he taught at Harvard and Smith College before landing at Mount Holyoke in 1948. He retired in 1987, but continued to teach through 1997.

Viereck is survived by his second wife, Betty Falkenberg Viereck; two children, John Alexis Viereck and Valerie Viereck Gibbs; three grandchildren and one great grandchild. His first wife was the late Anya de Markov.

An on-campus memorial service is planned.

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