Gerald Stern, one of America’s most beloved and revered poets, wrote about his childhood, Judaism, death, and the wonders of his contemplative life with melancholic, worldly humor. He died at the age of 97.
Stern, New Jersey’s first poet laureate, died Thursday at New York City’s Calvary Hospice, according to longtime partner Anne-Marie Macari.
Macari’s statement released Saturday by publisher WW Norton did not include a cause of death.
Stern, who won the National Book Award in 1998 for his anthology This Time, is often mistaken for Allen Ginsberg because of his lyrical and sensual style and his ability to connect the physical world to the larger universe. and was often compared to Walt Whitman.
Although Stern was shaped by the bleak urban environment of Pittsburgh where he was born and raised, he also has a strong sympathy for nature and animals, marveling at the “power” of maple trees and comparing himself to hummingbirds and squirrels. , and found “Nature’s Secrets”. “Life” among dead animals on the street.
A lifelong agnostic who was a fierce believer in “Jewish ideas,” the poet wrote more than a dozen books, “part comedy, part idealism, tinged with sarcasm, ridicule and derision.” I was full of sarcasm,” he described himself.
In his poems and essays, he wrote particularly forcefully about the past—immigrant parents, long-lost friends and lovers, and the stark divide between Pittsburgh’s rich and poor, Jews and non-Jews. .
He considered “The One Thing in Life” from his 1977 collection Lucky Life to be the poem that best defined him.
Although he was over 50 years old before winning any major awards, he was frequently cited later in life.
In addition to the National Book Award, her other accolades include being a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1991 for Leaving Another Kingdom and having received Lifetime Achievement Awards, including the Ruth Lilly Award and the Wallace Stevens Award.
In 2013, the Library of Congress awarded him the Rebecca Johnson Bobbitt National Award for Early Collected Poetry, calling him “one of America’s greatest proclaimers of poetry in the Whitman tradition. This work is an art myth.” I admire the power of change.”
He was named New Jersey’s first Poet Laureate in 2000, inadvertently leading to the rapid demise of the position.
After completing his two-year term, he recommended Amiri Baraka as his successor. Baraka sparked outrage in his 2002 poem “Somebody Blown Up America”, claiming Israel had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks the previous year.
Baraka refused to resign, so the state decided there were no more winners.
Born in 1925, Stern doesn’t remember any major literary influences as a child, but he did talk about the trauma of losing his older sister, Sylvia, when he was eight.
He described himself as “a thug who hung out in pool halls and got into fights”. But he told The New York Times in 1999 that he was a well-read, high-achieving thug in college.
Stern studied political science at the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master’s degree in comparative literature from Columbia University. Ezra Pound and his W. B. Yeats were among his first well-read poets.
Stern lived in Europe and New York in the 1950s, eventually settling in a 19th-century house near the Delaware River in Lambertville.
His creative development was slow. Only in his free time in the Army after World War II did he come up with the “sweet idea” of writing for a living.
He spent much of his thirties working on a poem about The Pineys during the US presidency, despairing of it being “luxury” and “boring”.
With the age of 40 just around the corner, he suffers from becoming an “eternal old disciple” and an “eternal young leader.”
Through his midlife crisis, he finally found his voice as a poet and realized he was “taking the easier road” than he should have been.
“It also had to do with the realization that my lingering youth was over, that I wasn’t living forever, that death wasn’t just a literary event, but something very real and very personal. 1983. “I was able to let go and finally be myself and lose my shame and pride.”
His marriage to Patricia Miller ended in divorce. They had two children, Rachel Stern Martin and David Stern.
In addition to Macari and his children, Stern survived by grandchildren Dylan and Alana Stern, Rebecca and Julia Martin.