James Longenbach was the author of six poetry collections: Forever (W. W. Norton, 2021); Earthling (W. W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Iron Key (W. W. Norton, 2012); Draft of a Letter (University of Chicago Press, 2007); Fleet River (University of Chicago Press, 2003); and Threshold (University of Chicago Press, 1998). He also frequently contributed to the Best American Poetry anthologies. Also a literary critic, Longenbach published several books on poetry criticism, including How Poems Get Made (W. W. Norton, 2018); The Resistance to Poetry (University of Chicago Press, 2004); and Modern Poetry After Modernism (Oxford University Press, 1997).
The New York Times has called Longenbach “one of the finest scholar-critics working today.” For an interview with Loggernaut in 2005, poet Jesse Lichtenstein wrote of Longenbach, “Few people write about poetry with agility, wisdom, and unfailing generosity towards subject and reader. How many fewer do both? And bring to each effort a vast learning, worn as lightly as the task allows? Which is to say there are very few people today writing like James Longenbach.”
Longenbach was the Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester. He had first joined the university’s faculty in 1985, after earning his PhD in English from Princeton University, and taught courses on William Shakespeare, American and British Modernism, and contemporary American poetry. During his professorship, he mentored numerous poets, including former student Ilya Kaminsky.
James Longenbach died on July 29, 2022 at his home in Stonington, Connecticut from complications due to kidney cancer. He was sixty-two.