Irving Feldman Biography

Biography (Poets and Poetry in America)

In keeping with his early allegiance to the nonpersonal poetry of high modernism, Irving Mordecai Feldman has been reluctant to share information about his own life; readers are expected to engage the poems. Not surprising, then, little is known about Feldman’s upbringing. The son of Russian Jews who had come to the United States only twenty years earlier, Feldman was born in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, just before the Great Depression. As Feldman was growing up, his family maintained its religious traditions for strength and consolation. As the disturbing news about the rise of Nazism filtered back to the United States from Europe, Feldman anxiously followed the fate of European Jews.

A precocious reader with an alert and curious mind, Feldman distinguished himself in school. Because of limited financial resources, Feldman attended the nearby City College of New York. He completed his bachelor’s degree in social sciences in 1950 and received an M.A. from Columbia in 1953. During his time in New York, Feldman relished the coffeehouse world of the urban bohemians, the lifestyle of bold artistic expression and defiant individual creativity amid a larger world perceived to be drab, complacent, and shallow.

From 1954 until 1956, Feldman taught at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Pedras. There he met and married avant-garde sculptor Carmen Alvarez del Olmo. In 1957, Feldman, a Fulbright fellow, taught at the Université de...

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