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Looking at Poets' Lives


“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.” — Allen Ginsberg, from Ginsberg, A Biography



During National Poetry Month we love to read poetry, but, we also have a fascination with poets' lives. Here are six great biographies and memoirs that will have you thinking about a poet's world, as well as their inspired words.


by Paul Auster

With Burning Boy, celebrated novelist Paul Auster tells the extraordinary story of Stephen Crane, who transformed American literature through an avalanche of original short stories, novellas, poems, journalism, and war reportage before his life was cut short by tuberculosis at age twenty-eight.




by Donald Hall

Intimate portraits of great poets in old age, giving new insight into their work and their lives, and context to the often flawless art created by flawed human beings.





by Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate, invites us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her poet-warrior road.






by Carolyn Forché

A devastating, lyrical, and visionary memoir about a young woman's brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. Written by one of the most gifted poets of her generation, this is the story of a woman's radical act of empathy, and her fateful encounter with an intriguing man who changes the course of her life. See Carolyn Forché at PoetryLife 2022 on April 21. Info here.



by Victoria Chang

From poet Victoria Chang, a collection of literary letters and mementos on the art of remembering across generations.






by Natasha Trethewey

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy.


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