I'm a poet living in Washington D.C. with my wife, the novelist Sarah Blake, and our two boys. Poems are the main work, but I've also written criticism in the form of essays, book reviews, notes, lectures & talks (a lot of that stuff can be found on the links page of this website). Since 2001, I've been teaching full time at the University of Maryland, College Park. Until very recently I was also the poetry editor at Tikkun magazine, where I served on the editorial staff since 1989.
I was born in Boston in 1963, and grew up in Lawrenceville, a small town in New Jersey. Graduated from Northwestern University in 1985. I took the local toll road through graduate school at Berkeley, and got off with a PhD in 1998, having written a master's thesis on Thomas McGrath and a doctoral dissertation on Mina Loy. Along the way, I detoured through a residency fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where I also served as the Writing Coordinator for three years; I'm still on the Writing Committee there, and recently finished three years as its Chair.
In 2001, University of Chicago Press published my first book, The World's Room. Shortly thereafter, I received a Whiting Writers Award and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. From the Book of Giants (2006) received the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University. I spent several years after that editing a book of essays, At the Barriers: On the Poetry
of Thom Gunn (2009); (you can find a link on this website to a digital exhibit of Gunn's archived materials instrumental to my finishing that book). In 2012, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship brought us to Berlin for the year. My third book of poems, The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish, came out in March 2013 from Chicago (also publisher of the first two).
In 2014, a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship helped me make progress on some translations of German poetry (Goethe, Rilke, Nelly Sachs, Ernst Jandl, Jan Wagner ). In the fall 2015, while a research associate at IES Institute's Berlin Centre, I began writing Berlin Notebook, about the refugee crisis in Germany and Europe; it posted daily in February 2016 at The Los Angeles Review of Books. LARB published an expanded edition of the Notebook as an e-book in fall 2016.
With the election of Donald Trump, I found myself writing poems in his voice, captivated by his startling, vulgar, and in other ways memorably bad use of English. In spring 2018, a virtual chapbook, Everything
I Do I Do Good: Trumpoems, was published by Dispatches from the Poetry Wars.
In October 2021, Farrar Straus Giroux will publish my translation (with Linda B. Parshall) from the German of Nelly Sachs' 1959 volume, Flight and Metamorphosis, which contains the poem she read at her 1966 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.