Jay Parini was born on April 2, 1948, in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Scranton. He earned his AB in 1970 from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. During his junior year, he studied abroad at the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, where he immediately returned after graduating from Lafayette to receive his PhD in 1975. It was during his time at the University of Saint Andrews that he began writing poetry. He published his first book of poems, Singing in Time (J. W. B. Laing, 1972), when he was a student there.
Parini’s poetry collections include New and Collected Poems: 1975–2015 (Beacon Press, 2015); The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (Braziller, 2005); House of Days (Henry Holt, 1998); Town Life (Henry Holt, 1988); and Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982).
Also a novelist, biographer, editor, and critic, Parini has written biographies of William Faulkner, Robert Frost, and John Steinbeck. His most recent novels include The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville (Doubleday, 2010); The Apprentice Lover (Harper Perennial, 2003); Benjamin’s Crossing (Holt, 1996); and The Last Station (Holt, 1990), which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film.
Parini has received honorary degrees from Lafayette College and the University of Scranton and fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.
In 1975, Parini returned to the United States from Scotland and began his academic career as an assistant English professor and director of the creative writing program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Two years later, he cofounded the New England Review with Sydney Lea. He later moved to Vermont, where he began his tenure as D. E. Axinn Professor of English and creative writing at Middlebury College in 1982. He currently teaches at Middlebury College and lives in Weybridge, Vermont.