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Vilma Howard, Poet and Journalist

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Vilma Howard, Poet and Journalist

Image: 1954 Paris Review (cropped)
Source: Wall Street Journal (obtained from the Morgan Library)

Vilma Howard is one of the many relatively unknown 20th-century African-American women who settled for a time in post-World War II Paris.  Very little has been written about her.

Vilma Howard_cropped from 1954 The Paris ReviewVilma Howard

A poet and journalist, Howard was an editor for the Paris Review during the 1950s.

The most detailed description of her that I've been able to find about her was published in Langston Hughes' New Negro Poets: U.S.A. (1964):

Vilma Howard, whose poetry has appeared in Phylon and the Paris Review, is a born New Yorker, who, after her marriage to a young Englishman, now lives in Lesham gardens, London, but frequently travels on the continent. She is a graduate of Fisk University, has one child, and sometimes works as a free lance journalist.

A footnote in Selected Letters by Langston Hughes (2015 - Arnold Rampersad and ‎David Roessel, editors) indicates that her poem entitled "The Citizen" was published in New Negro Poets: U.S.A. and that she lived in Europe for many years.

Howard's poem, "After the War," appeared in the Winter 1953 issue of Paris Review.  Her short story, "Belle," appeared in the Spring 1955 issue of the magazine.

The Paris Review Issue 8 Spring 1955Cover of the Paris Review
Spring Issue 1955

Along with Alfred Chester, Howard interviewed Ralph Ellison about his novel, The Invisible Man.  That interview also appeared in the Spring 1955 issue of Paris Review.  Entitled "Ralph Ellison, The Art of Fiction No. 8," it is mentioned in a 1963 article in the Chicago Tribune as one of the "extremely well-done pieces" published by the Review on Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, and other writers.