Photo Credit: Lenny Foster

Steven Schneider

b. 1951

Current City, State, Country

McAllen, Texas, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Trenton, New Jersey, USA


Steven P. Schneider is the founder of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), where he is a Professor of Creative Writing. For many years he chaired the seminar on Narrative Poetry at the West Chester University Poetry Conference, which led to his editing the book The Contemporary Narrative Poem: Critical Crosscurrents (University of Iowa Press, 2012). He is the co-creator with his artist wife Reefka of two bilingual, ekphrastic exhibits and books of poetry and art: Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives / Fronteras: dibujando las vidas fronterizas and The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi. He is also the author of the poetry collections Unexpected Guests and Prairie Air Show. His poemChanukah Lights Tonighthas been featured on NPR Morning Edition and in Ted Kooser’s column and website, American Life in Poetry. His scholarly books on contemporary American poetry include A.R. Ammons and the Poetics of Widening and Complexities of Motion: The Long Poems of A.R. Ammons. In 2018 he traveled to Hengyang Normal University in Hunan Province, China for the opening of the exhibit of The Magic of Mariachi. Steven’s poems were translated into Mandarin for this show and his work has also been translated into Spanish, Hebrew, and Japanese. Steven is an elected member of the Texas Institute of Letters. His awards include five Big Read grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Nebraska Arts Council Fellowship, and a Poetry Fellowship from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

My Jewish poetry is inspired by many threads of Jewish thought, culture, and history. For example, I am inspired by the concept of Tikkun Olam, which has led to my writing a bilingual collection of Ekphrastic poems, Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives / Fronteras: dibujando las vidas fronterizas, that illustrate the humanity of people on both sides of the U.S. / Mexico border. The Psalms of David, especially those that celebrate the wonders of the natural world, have inspired my eco-poetry. The paintings of Marc Chagall have led to a well published series of my poems about Chagall’s windows in Jerusalem. The importance of family in Jewish life, the writings of Martin Buber, and the significance of Jewish holidays, is reflected in many of the poems in my collection Unexpected Guests. The history of Israel and my trips to that country are reflected in the third section of Unexpected Guests, entitled “When you Leave Jerusalem.”

“Why Do I Write Jewish Poems” by Steven Schneider
Because my maternal grandparents came to America to flee the pogroms in Russia
Because Chagall’s paintings inspire my imagination to take flight
Because I return to Israel in my dreams
Because I prefer my grandchildren to call me Saba rather than Pop
Because we were strangers in a strange land
Because the Torah teaches us to be kind to strangers
Because the Psalms of David invoke the wonders of Nature
Because I am waiting for the Messiah to knock
Because I write to sweep the darkness out

Published Works

The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi, with art by Reefka Schneider (Wings Press, 2016)
Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives / Fronteras; dibujando las vidas fronterizas, with art by Reefka Schneider  (Wings Press, 2010, 2nd edition paperback 2013)
Unexpected Guests (Blue Light Press, 2008)
Prairie Air Show (Hurakan Publication, 2000)

Complexities of Motion: New Essays on A.R. Ammons’s Long Poems (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999)
A.R. Ammons and The Poetics of Widening Scope (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994)

Edited Works
The Contemporary Narrative Poem: Critical Crosscurrents (University of Iowa Press, 2012)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Professor, Creative Writing Department, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


Syracuse University, B.A. English
The University of Iowa, M.F.A.
The University of Iowa, Ph.D.

Languages of Publication(s) and Poets Translated

Spanish, Ruben Dario

Subject Matter