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Biography

Robert Siegel is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction. His poetry includes A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, The Waters Under the Earth, The Beasts & The Elders and In a Pig's Eye, and he has received prizes and awards from Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Transatlantic Review, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Prairie Schooner and, The Atlantic Monthly. His fiction includes Alpha Centauri and the Whalesong trilogy, which received the Golden Archer and Matson awards.

Siegel has taught at Dartmouth, Princeton, and Goethe University in Frankfurt, and for twenty-three years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he directed the graduate creative writing program and is currently professor emeritus of English. He has degrees from Wheaton, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard. He is married to Ann Hill Siegel, a photographer, and lives on the coast of Maine.

Excerpts from Reviews:

Poetry:

"Of Robert Siegel's talents there can be no doubt. 'Brilliant' is a term too casually applied today, and it does not begin to define the remarkable range of subjects delineated and the technical mastery demonstrated in The Beasts & the Elders....His poems are a power."

--Joseph Parisi, in Poetry


"Nothing is unseen or untouched here.... Unlike this scene in Frost fifty years ago, the great world, highway, university, hospital and airport are never out of sight and hearing."

-–Robert Lowell


"Siegel's imagination is excited by the nonhuman world, and he writes about plants and animals with surprising immediacy...A compassionate observer...he looks at them as mysterious and wonderful signs of a greater order."

-–Dana Gioia, in Poetry


"In various transformations the poet becomes a daddy longlegs, a snail, a deer tick, a tiger, a llama, a giant panda, an inchworm, a nightcrawler, a mussel, and more. Nothing is too small to escape Siegel's attention or too large to lie beyond his range. Again Keats comes to mind: 'If a Sparrow come before my Window, I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel.' While A Pentecost of Finches does not include a sparrow poem, there is little in the chain of being that is omitted. No doubt Siegel could write from the perspective of a rock or tree or any other form whenever he chooses to do so. In this volume he moves through dazzling reinventions that Proteus himself would envy."

--The North Dakota Quarterly


"This is indeed gorgeous stuff, one shatteringly beautiful line after another....Siegel's focus is often on the mystical, on the mysterious small epiphanies of daily life, the pure wonder that they happen."

--The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram



"His outdoor nude, 'so full even the trees have traveled too far; 'his pig, 'squeezing contentedly /his small bagpipe voice as he mashes/ corn with a slobbery leer'; the moose lost in town, the almost indecently lovable bear–are Wordsworthian presences whose calm or energy remain with one long after finishing the poem."

-–The Virginia Quarterly Review


"Here we are reminded of Wallace Stevens's 'sleight-of-hand man'; the poet's magic is his ability to summon fresh forms from old details. Siegel's vision is always seeking the unusual in the commonplace.

--The Beloit Poetry Journal


"The crisp intelligence that animates this volume and the amazing skill that turns every subject to a fresh, vivid picture of meaning are a rich definition of mastery....each page showing how exciting genuine poetry is."

--The American Book Review


"To say the poems are finely-crafted would do them an injustice. They have been whittled, shaved, sanded, and polished until they glow like fine woodcarvings. . . .These poems are Christian in the best possible way. They neither preach, nor proselytize, nor prohibit; they simply celebrate with hymns of praise the light that illumines all creation."

--The Sewanee Review


"His way of seeing is not merely sacramental but ultimately mystical....First to last...Siegel has stayed wondrously true to this vision."
--Christianity and Literature


"To meet the unpretentious versatility of Robert Siegel after the single-mindedness of other poets is like returning to the mainland after a tour of the islands."

The London Times Literary Supplement


"The poet's extraordinary gift for metaphor allows him to reveal a range of emotions and attitudes that is rare among contemporary poets."

-–American Library Association Booklist


"Here we are reminded of Wallace Stevens's 'sleight-of-hand man'; the poet's magic is his ability to summon fresh forms from old details. Siegel's vision is always seeking the unusual in the commonplace."

The Beloit Poetry Journal


"This collection of poems is brilliant and deeply moving, as their author is a poet of singular empathy with nature in all her forms."

The Milwaukee Journal


Fiction:


"Whalesong is one of those rare and wondrous things, a book which is born a classic....Hruna's tale of birth and life and terror and sacrifice and joy has the quality of true myth."

--Madeleine L'Engle

"Siegel's tales have the magic of Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and the lyric majesty of Thoreau's prose. Highly recommended."

--Library Journal

"This powerful fable creates a plausible body of whale culture, with an ocean-eye take on human history from the creation through Jonah, Atlantis, the Titanic and D-Day right up the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez."

--The Milwaukee Journal

"This beautifully written epic tale of a great specie's struggle for survival deserves to be widely read....Its special ability to elicit empathy and provoke outrage from readers could prove as powerful as all the voyages of Greenpeace in assuring that the whales will continue to sing their song."

--RAIN


Alpha Centauri: "It's all here--everything your imagination longs for. Siegel is a bard, and that is a genus almost as rare nowadays as the centaurs."

--Tom Howard