Photo Credit: Miguel Pagliere

Alicia Suskin Ostriker

b. 1937

Biography

Alicia Ostriker, a poet and critic, has published nineteen volumes of poetry, including The Volcano and After (2020), Waiting for the Light (2017), which received the National Jewish Book Award, The Book of Seventy, which received that award in 2009, The Old Womanthe Tulip, and the Dog (2014), The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011; and No Heaven (2005). Her 1980 feminist classic and anti-war poem sequence, The Mother/Child Papers, was recently reprinted by the University of Pittsburgh Press. The Volcano Sequence, a volume of spiritual quest and questioning, wrestles with Jewish traditions. Twice a National Book Award Finalist, for The Little Space (1998) and The Crack in Everything (1996), and winner of the William Carlos Williams Award for The Imaginary Lover, Ostriker is known for her intelligence and passionate appraisal of women’s place in literature, and for investigating themes of family and sexuality, politics, religion, Jewish identity, and celebration of city life. Ostriker’s poetry is at once moving and new, because it touches old and deep knowledge, and also opens the heart and mind again. Or, as Joan Larkin puts it, “In a voice absolutely her own—wild, earthy, irreverent, full of humor and surprise—Ostriker takes on nothing less than what it feels like to be alive.”

Ostriker’s critical work includes the now-classic Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on American poetry from Walt Whitman to the present. She is also the author of critical books on the Bible, including the controversial The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions, a combination of midrash and autobiography. Her newest prose work is For The Love of God: the Bible as an Open Book, of which Elaine Pagels writes, “No one who reads this amazing, brilliantly written book will ever read the Bible the same way again.”

Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, Yale Review, Ontario Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Anthology, and many other journals and anthologies, and has been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic. Ostriker has performed her work widely in the USA, and has performed, lectured, and led workshops in England, France, Italy, Israel, Japan, and China. In 2015, Ostriker was appointed a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2018, Everywoman Her Own Theology, a volume of essays on Ostriker’s poetry, was published by the University of Michigan Press.

Ostriker lives in New York City, is Professor Emerita of English at Rutgers University and taught for ten years in the low-residency Poetry MFA program of Drew University. She says, “If I did not have teaching to do, I would not recognize myself.”

Ostriker lives with her husband of 60-plus years in New York City. Of her work, the poet Eleanor Wilner has written, “Ostriker is our morning-after psalmist; our wild, justice-starved, embodied, dazzling intelligence in its unending argument with itself, the world, and God.”

Current City, State, Country

Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Birth City, State, Country

New York City, New York, USA

Published Works

Poetry
The Volcano and After (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)
Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)
No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)
The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
The Little Space: Poems Selected and New (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)
The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
Green Age (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989)
The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)
A Woman under the Surface: Poems and Prose Poems (Princeton University Press, 1982)
The Mother/Child Papers (Momentum, 1980)
A Dream of Springtime (Smith/Horizon Press, 1979)
Once More out of Darkness, and Other Poems (Smith/Horizon Press, 1971; enlarged edition, Berkeley Poets Cooperative, 1974)
Songs (Holt, 1969)

Prose
For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book (Rutgers University Press, 2008)
Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000)
(Author of preface) The Five Scrolls (Old Testament Bible) (Vintage, 2000)
The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994)
Feminist Revision and the Bible (Blackwell, 1992)
Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women Poets in America (Beacon, 1986)
Writing like a Woman (University of Michigan Press, 1983)
(Editor) William Blake: Complete Poems (Penguin, 1977)
Vision and Verse in William Blake (University of Wisconsin Press, 1965)

Current Title

Professor Emerita / Rutgers University; Poetry Editor / Lilith.

Author Site

Education

University of Wisconsin-Madison, MA and Ph.D
Brandeis University, BA

Video Reading

Links to Sample Works

Subject Matter

Genre