Born in New York City on February 1, 1932, David Antin was educated at City College of New York, where he studied science and languages, and New York University, where he studied linguistics and received an M.A.
An experimentally driven poet, Antin used found text, or juxtapositions of different kinds of texts, to create new linguistic and philosophical meanings in his early published work. In the late 1960s, Antin’s work often took the form of "talk poems," which were improvised pieces that he would perform extemporaneously. This process allowed Antin to be inventive, while also subverting the monotony of the "standardized" poetry reading. The poems themselves were often motivated by the location of the reading and the attendant audience. These poems were often recorded and some semblance of the original spoken texts were transcribed and published in Antin’s poetry collections.
Antin has published over ten books of poetry, including the talk-poem books Talking (Kulchur Foundation, 1972) and Talking at the Boundaries (New Directions, 1976), as well as a novel, an autobiography, and a conversation with Charles Bernstein. He has also written a great deal of critical essays, some of which, including an influential essay on the avant-garde, have been translated into Slovak and Hungarian.
An art critic and visual/media artist as well as a poet, Antin also published essays and gave art talks at such institutions as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Sorbonne and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, where served as a Fellow. Some of Antin’s later visual media work was in filmmaking, notably, a series of "Micro-Films," which are slide sequences of words and images that accumulate to create a very short film.
He received numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He received the PEN Los Angeles Award for Poetry in 1984.
Antin taught in the experimental visual arts department at the University of California at San Diego, beginning in 1968. He lived in San Diego with his wife, filmmaker and performance and installation artist, Eleanor Antin. He passed away on October 12, 2016.