Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh on February 22, 1925. His recent books of poetry include the posthumous collection Blessed as We Were Late Selected and New Poems, 2000–2018 (W. W. Norton, 2023); Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965–1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), Save the Last Dance (W. W. Norton, 2008); Everything Is Burning (W. W. 2005); American Sonnets (W. W. Norton, 2002); Last Blue: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000); This Time: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 1998), which won the National Book Award; Odd Mercy (W. W. Norton, 1995); and Bread Without Sugar (W. W. Norton, 1992), winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize.
Stern’s other books include Stealing History (Trinity University Press, 2012); Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 1990); Lovesick (Perennial Library, 1987); Paradise Poems (Vintage, 1984); The Red Coal (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1981), which received the Melville Caine Award from the Poetry Society of America; Lucky Life (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1977), the 1977 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; and Rejoicings: Poems, 1966–1972 (Metro Books, 1973).
About his work, Toi Derricotte has said,
Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there. Their lyrical ecstasies take you up for that moment so that your vision is changed, you are changed. The voice is intimate, someone unafraid to be imperfect. Gerald Stern’s poems sing in praise of the natural world, and in outrage of whatever is antihuman.
Stern’s honors include the Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Award, the Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Prize, four National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 2005, Stern was selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry.
Stern was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. For many years, he was a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Stern lived in New Jersey and New York and died at the age of ninety-seven on October 28, 2022.