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Sharon Dolin



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 Università 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. Sharon 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 YMCA. 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.

       The author of 4 chapbooks (Mind Lag, Mistakes, Climbing Mount Sinai, and The Seagull) and 3 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.

       Sharon Dolin’s poetry can be confessional. The “heart” of her first book Heart Work are 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 language-oriented (as if poems can be anything but based in language) as possible. I’m a daughter of Free Verse. I’m in love with the eye-possiblities 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.

        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 hi


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).

Copyright ©2006 by Douglas Messerli and Green Integer

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