Albert Goldbarth was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1948, and has published over two dozen collections of poetry, including To Be Read in 500 Years: Poems (2009), The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007 (2007), Saving Lives (2001), and Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology (1991); several collections of essays, including Many Circles (2001), Great Topics of the World (1994), and A Sympathy of Souls (1990); and a novel, Pieces of Payne (2001). Both Saving Lives and Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. Goldbarth is the only poet to have received the award twice.
Goldbarth’s poetry demonstrates a unique style, where complex thoughts and concepts wind themselves through conversational diction and detailed descriptions of both the world around us and the ideas that undergird our engagement with it. Like his poetry, Goldbarth’s essays also cover an astounding array of subjects from history, science, and pop culture to autobiography, yielding a poet with the ability to make connections between wildly disparate subjects. Writing in Carolina Quarterly, Robert Cording describes a poet who “has that rare gift of seeing metaphor in almost any event, of discovering a poem in the most unlikely places. . .Goldbarth’s poems. . .yoke disparate conceits, and [are] almost always fearlessly playful in their approach. . .It’s too easy to forget that for all of Goldbarth’s bravura, the poems’ punch lies in the way they affect us: over and over they tenderly remind us of the conditions of our humanness.”
After receiving his B.A. from the University of Illinois (Chicago Circle campus, 1969) and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa (1971), Goldbarth began a long and distinguished academic career teaching at Elgin Community College (Chicago), Cornell University, Syracuse University, the University of Texas, and Wichita State University, where he is currently a Distinguished Professor of Humanities. Writing on Goldbarth’s expansive areas of inspiration, Michael Simms notes, “He fashions metaphors from the deductions of historians, theologians, and physicists, integrating their arguments into poems which remain, somehow, intensely personal and concrete.” (Southwest Review) Connecting these different threads of observation and experience through sprawling, inquisitive poems, Goldbarth folds unique singularities, broad cultural phenomena, and personal experience into a distilled, affective whole that reinforces a deep, abiding humanity that unites us all.
Goldbarth is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, was nominated for the National Book Award for Jan. 31 (1974), and is the winner of the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award for Many Circles (2001). He lives in Wichita, Kansas.