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Wayne Koestenbaum

Born in 1958, Wayne Koestenbaum attended Harvard University and received an MA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from Princeton University. After being named co-winner of the 1989 Discovery/The Nation poetry contest, he published his first collection of poetry, Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems (Persea Books, 1990), which was chosen as one of The Village Voice Literary Supplement's "Favorite Books of 1990."

His other books of poetry include Camp Marmalade (Nightboat Books, 2018), The Pink Trance Notebooks (Nightboat Books, 2015), Blue Stranger With Mosaic Background (Turtle Point Press, 2012); and Rhapsodies of A Repeat Offender (Persea Books, 1994).

About his poetry, David Lehman has said, "Wayne Koestenbaum has been writing poems so dashing and poignant, so sexy and savvy, that it’s hard not to like them. He puts wordplay at the service of autobiography, and autobiography at the service of the ceaseless inquiry into the origins of woe, the mysteries of sex, and the dialectic of the brain and crotch."

Koestenbaum is also widely known as a cultural critic for his books on Jackie Kennedy and opera: Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon (FSG, 1995) and The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire (Poseidon Books, 1993), which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books of criticism include My 1980s and Other Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013). He has also published several novels, including Humiliation (Picador, 2011).

Koestenbaum received a Whiting Writer's Award in 1994 and taught in Yale's English department from 1988 to 1996. He has taught painting at the Yale School of Art since 2003. He lives in New York Cit, where he is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Selected Bibliography

Camp Marmalade (Nightboat Books, 2018)
The Pink Trance Notebooks (Nightboat Books, 2015)
Blue Stranger With Mosaic Background (Turtle Point Press, 2012)
Best Selling Jewish Porn Films (Turtle Point Press, 2006)
Model Homes (BOA Editions, 2004)
The Milk of Inquiry (Persea Books, 1999)
Rhapsodies of A Repeat Offender (Persea Books, 1994)
Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems (Persea Books, 1990)

Humiliation (Picador, 2011)
Hotel Theory (Soft Skull Press, 2007)
Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes (Soft Skull Press, 2004)

Notes on Glaze: 18 Photographic Investigations (Cabinet Books, 2016)
My 1980s and Other Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)
The Anatomy of Harpo Marx (University of California Press, 2012)
Andy Warhol (Viking Press, 2001)
Cleavage: Essays on Sex, Stars, and Aesthetics (Ballantine Books, 2000)
Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)
The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire (Poseidon Books, 1993)
Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (Routledge, 1989)

Wayne Koestenbaum

By This Poet



the atonality of folded underwear

the Tel Aviv of Chinese water torture

the martians of My Three Sons 

the parsimony of Tel Quel

the archivist of beatitudes

the Helsinki of Frankenstein

the Winchester Mystery House of devil-may-care

the worldwide franchise of Croatian mystery plays

the Bettie Page of situationism

the New Criticism of Ethel Waters

the marble pound cake of tauromachy

the Christopher Strong of Sesame Street 

the Michèle Morgan of abstinence

the 19 Berggasse of Calvin Klein

the stifling corridor of condom leakage

the Boris Karloff of Maiden Lane

the CalArts of maple syrup

the Lord's Prayer of Rumpelstilskin

the Gretchen's Spinning Song of fatuous praise

the Eli Wallach of pragmatism

the meal ticket of the Williamsburg Messiah

the Mrs. Robinson of Abstract Expressionism

the mead-soaked sheets of Melanctha

the Abbott and Costello of ostinato

the abracadabra of panty-hose

the Guys and Dolls of pineapple upside-down cake 

the Hungry I of Shangri-La

the Bog Man of Capitol Hill

the Beresford of bilge

National Nudist Club Newsletter

Into the unisex nursery's toilet my undershirt falls.
I fish it out and find my face on a marquee.

Florida: in sneakers, I construct
Delft shelves to store scrawled diagnoses.

I enter an observation tank
(rightly considered tragic, irreversible)

to greet the hatchetfaced magician whose dead mother
says welcome back, implying I've been fired.

Through Skinner Box glass 
he watches me play with dildos, blades. Entranced 

by unending orgasm, I dismiss his tendency 
to find amelioration in experience's fluctuating shallows.

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