August 14, 2015

Aaron Shurin

Aaron Shurin [USA]

Aaron Shurin was born in New York City in 1947 and spent his teenage years in Los Angeles. In 1965 he attended University of California, Berkeley during its most intense years of counter-culture upheaval and political protest. There he met and began to study with Denise Levertov, who became a mentor and friend, and fostered his interest in poetry. At the same time, he began to form a bond with the city of San Francisco, where he participated in 1967’s “Summer of Love,” and entered the city’s already-active gay life, with its dialectic of sexual exploration and political struggle. The two strands of poetic practice and gay identity would form a lifelong braid in Shurin’s work.

      After a few years on the East Coast (where he helped found the writing group and literary press The Good Gay Poets) Shurin returned to San Francisco in 1974. That city continued to be his proving ground for investigations of poetic process, gender theory, and gay identity. (His first book, The Night Sun, was published in 1976 by the radical journal and press, Gay Sunshine.) Soon after his return, he met the Poet Robert Duncan in a chance encounter on a Market Street trolley. Duncan became a close friend and major influence, and when, in 1980, Duncan became pat of the faculty of the Poetics Program at New College of California, Shurin enrolled. He studied there with Duncan and Diane di Prima, also already a friend and mentor, and in 1982 became the first graduate of the program. He began his career as a teacher soon after, and for thirty years taught writing at colleges and universities across the City: at New College, City College, San Francisco State, and the University of San Francisco, where for a dozen years he directed the MFA Writing program.
     His poetry began to find new shape in the Bay Area’s radical poetry community of the 1980s, in collaboration and contention with Language poetry, New Narrative Writing, and hermetic and visionary traditions re-kindled at New College. Questions of gender, subjectivity, and identity were given formal expression, and in talks and essays Shurin began to formulate a “post-modern Romanticism” that combined the transcendent sensuality of lyric poetry and the social registrations of narrative prose. Various collage methodologies re-cast his poetry into lush mosaics, fractured and sustained by dashes, ellipses, and wandering pronouns, housed for more than twenty years in the shape of prose poems. At the same time, living in the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, Shurin began to write personal essays, once again uniting poetic texture and the structures of prose in an attempt to register the factual and emotional complexities of the epidemic. Published as Unbound: A Book of AIDS (Sun and Moon Press), the essays marked the beginning of Shurin’s interest in prose writing, and led to the narrative and autobiographical meditations of King of Shadows (City Lights). Shurin also published a short work on narrative theory, Narrativity in 1990 (Sun and Moon Press). 
      Shurin’s honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, the Gerbode Poetry Prize, the Bay Area Art Award in Literature, a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist’s Grant, and two California Arts Council Literary Fellowships. He lives in San Francisco, where he is Professor Emeritus in the MFA Writing program at the University of San Francisco.


Woman on Fire (San Francisco: Rose Deeprose Press, 1975); The Night Sun (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press,1976); Toot Suite (San Francisco: Rose Deeprose Press, 1978); Giving Up the Ghost (San Francisco: Rose Deeprose Press, 1980); The Graces (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1983); Elsewhere (San Francisco: Acts Books, 1988); A’s Dream (Oakland, California: O Books, 1989); Into Distances (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1993); Codex (Buffalo: Meow Press, 1997); The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems (Jersey City, New Jersey: Talisman House, 1999); A Door (Jersey City, New Jersey: Talisman House, 2000); Involuntary Lyrics (Richmond, California: Omnidawn, 2005); Threshold (with Helen Douglas) (Scotland: Wee Productions, 2007); Citizen (San Francisco: City Lights, 2012)

To read "Then" by Shurin, go here:

For a selection of two other poems, click at the sites listed below:

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