Stephen Yenser was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1941.
Yenser is the author of Blue Guide (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Fire in All Things (Louisiana State University Press, 1993), which was selected by Richard Howard to receive the 1992 Walt Whitman Award. Yenser has also published a collection of essays, A Boundless Field: American Poetry at Large (University of Michigan Press, 2002), as well as The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill (Harvard University Press, 1987) and Circle to Circle: The Poetry of Robert Lowell (University of California Press, 1975). With J. D. McClatchy, he edited James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006); Collected Novels and Plays of James Merrill (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003); and Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002). He is a coeditor of A Whole World: Selected Letters of James Merrill (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021).
About Yenser’s work, the poet Alan Williamson has said,
Stephen Yenser combines two qualities rarely found together: an extraordinary gift for verbal play and a bedrock seriousness about the emotional aims of poetry. Consequently, he can do things almost no one else can: a poem reproducing the modulations of music; a poem in a dead poet’s style that becomes uniquely his own, through its meditation on intersubjectivity and immortality.
Yenser’s honors include a Discovery/The Nation Award, two Fulbright teaching fellowships, and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in Poetry, a Pushcart Prize, and the B. F. Connors Prize for Poetry from The Paris Review.
Yenser is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received the Harvey L. Eby Award for the Art of Teaching.