Alfred Corn was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1943. He grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, and received his BA in French literature from Emory University in 1965. He was awarded an MA in French literature from Columbia University in 1967. His degree work included a year spent in Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship and two years of teaching in the French department at Columbia College.
Corn’s first book of poems, All Roads at Once (Viking Press), was published in 1976. His other collections are Tables (Press 53, 2013); Contradictions (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award; Stake: Selected Poems, 1972–1992 (Counterpoint, 1999); Present (Counterpoint, 1997); Autobiographies (Viking Press, 1992); The West Door (Viking Press, 1988); Notes From a Child of Paradise (Viking Press, 1984); The Various Light (Viking Press, 1980); and A Call in the Midst of the Crowd: Poems in Four Parts on New York City (Viking Press, 1978).
In a review of Present in the Boston Review, Thomas M. Disch said:
Happily, Corn’s poetry is more than the sum of his rare gifts, for underpinning these is a poetic persona as distinctively affable (though less raffish) as those of [James] Merrill or James Schuyler or (when he’s in flaneur mode) Frank O’Hara. It is not the regnant mode among poetry academics at the moment, but since at least the time of [Lord George Gordon] Byron and [William] Wordsworth it has been the kind of poetry that most commends itself to readers of poetry.
In 1997, Corn also published the novel Part of His Story (Mid-List Press, 1999). His other prose works are Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989–2007 (University of Michigan Press, 2008); Aaron Rose Photographs (Abrams, 2001); The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody (Story Line Press, 1997); and The Metamorphoses of Metaphor: Essays in Poetry and Fiction (Viking Press, 1989).
Corn has received fellowships and prizes from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets, and the Levinson Prize from the Poetry Foundation.
A frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and The Nation, Corn has also written art criticism for Art in America and ARTnews magazines. He has taught at the City University of New York (CUNY), Yale University, Connecticut College, the University of Cincinnati, University of California, Los Angeles, Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Tulsa. He held the Amy Clampitt Residency in Lenox, Massachusetts, for 2004–05 and taught a course at the Poetry School in London from 2005–06.