March 8, 2023

Sharon Dolin (USA) 1956

Sharon Dolin (USA)


Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sharon Dolin spent her childhood there before she left for Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, graduating magna cum laude in English. She continued her studies on scholarship, first for a summer at Edinburgh University in Scotland and then in Italy at Perugia’s Universit√† per gli Stranieri.

     Back in the States, she earned her first Master’s in English at U.C. Berkeley, before returning to Cornell, where she received a Ph.D. in English in 1990.

     Dolin has worked as an editor at various publishing houses and newspapers, including The Village Voice, and she taught literature and writing for many years as part of the Humanities Faculty at The Cooper Union. In 1995, with her husband working part time as a letterpress printer, she founded The Center for Book Arts Letterpress Poetry Chapbook Competition, which she still directs, along with a Broadsides Reading Series at The Center in New York City. She has also taught creative writing at The New School and Poets House. Since 1996, she has been teaching poetry workshops at The Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y. She also teaches special seminars on such topics as Free Verse, Dante’s Purgatorio, and Ekphrastic Poetry (poems based on visual works of art)—one of her particular loves.    

     She has been Poet-in-Residence at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberature Arts and taught at Hofstra University and The Cooper Union.

     The author of five chapbooks (Mind LagMistakes, Climbing Mount SinaiThe Seagull, and Entreaty to Indecision) and three book length volumes of poetry, her first book, Heart Work, appeared in 1995. Her second and third volumes, Serious Pink in 2003 and Realm of the Possible in 2004, were written simultaneously and published within a year and a half of each other. Serious Pink has garnered a number of reviews, including citation as a notable book by Publishers Weekly for Poetry Month in 2003.

     Dolin was a Fulbright Scholar to Italy, received a national award from the Poetry Society of America, and has been a Fellow several times at Yaddo and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
     Her poetry can be confessional. The “heart” of her first book Heart Work consists of poems about her mother’s death. Yet she is equally comfortable writing about art, or Italy, or reading. Jewish content is threaded throughout her work, as in her third book, whose moving chapter entitled “Geniza” is a poetic sequence about the death of a lover. At the same time, as she has explained, she was also writing poems in response to paintings by second-generation Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell, which went into her book Serious Pink. About her own writing she has said, “I want my poetics to be as slippery as a fish—and as scaly. That is: I don’t want to be caught and categorized. How else can I keep my most constant reader (myself) interested but by varying what I do: mixing it up. So I write poems that are unabashedly narrative and post-confessional, writing poems about mourning, love, and the birth of my son, and others that are as ‘languagy’ (as if poems can be anything but languagy) as possible. I’m a daughter of Free Verse. I’m in love with the eye-possibilities for the page perhaps slightly more than the ear. Thus my manifesto/dissertation on enjambment as free verse’s visual form of prosody. Thus, my second book, Serious Pink, composed entirely of ekphrastic poems. The poem here, “Be, as in Flotsam,” is one of a group of ten poems called “Clare-Hewn.” I have always been in love with homophonic verse, a kind of “ear poetry” (so I contradict myself, I contain worlds). One summer, when I had hit a wall in my own work, I was reading John Clare’s poems and decided to “translate” some of his sonnets as though they had been written in a foreign tongue, as a way out of my own writerly impasse. I revised them so they impart a kind of skewed sense, then held onto them for many months, never quite sure they were really poems at all.”

      In 2020, Dolin published Hitchcock Blonde; A Cinematic Memoir. She has also translated the Catalan poet Gemma Gorga’s Books of Minutes


Mind Lag (San Francisco: Turtle Watch Press, 1982); Heart Work (Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York: The Sheep Meadow Press, 1995); Climbing Mount Sinai (New York: Dim Gray Bar Press, 1996); Mistakes (New York: Poetry New York, Pamphlet Series twenty-four, 1999); The Seagull (New York: The Center for Book Arts, 2001); Serious Pink (New York: Marsh Hawk Press, 2003); Realm of the Possible (New York: Four Way Books, 2004); Entreaty to Indecision (New York: The Center for Book Arts, 2006); Burn and Dodge (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008); Whirlwind (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012); Manual for Living (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English

Be, as in Flotsam

     after John Clare

The dourest window, pheasant moon-in-phase,

We brave, while songsters in a mulish haze squire

Home these nippled fields and by their thighs

Of thistle, would, weary, herd our eyes.

End the reach; haggard, throwing hisses, stolen, we’ll

Otherwise bruise when wrists re-steel.

Now let us calm the sense of flotsam being

What orders the panting reach of jeans

Sent twitching in bistro throngs, regales

Lewd hums, the jigs—our own—yell, spill what ails.

Our hearts, doused, toss mullein in their plaids

And often strand the stronger sons they had.

Mid-lover, jetsam reddens, thorned tonight;

Estranged, send it summer-swarmed, by eel-light.

Reprinted from New American Writing, no. 23 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Sharon Dolin.

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