Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Linda Pastan has produced an important body of work that has received both critical and popular acclaim as well as numerous awards. Born Linda Olenic to Jacob L. Olenic, a surgeon, and Bess Schwartz Olenic, Pastan grew up the only surviving child of parents who professed an uncompromising atheism despite their eastern European Jewish descent. Still, her childhood in the Bronx was saturated with the domestic details and cultural expectations of Old World Jewry.
Pastan attended the Fieldston School in Riverdale, New York, a progressive private school affiliated with the Ethical Cultural Society, a humanist organization for free-thinking Jews. Ethics was an important part of the curriculum, starting in the lower grades with courses emphasizing the Greek myths as moral paradigms. Later, these mythical heroes and gods would appear in her poetry as archetypes.
After completing Fieldston, Pastan attended Radcliffe College, where she majored in literature and won Mademoiselle’s Dylan Thomas Award in her senior year. In 1953, she married Ira Pastan, a medical student, and received her B.A. in English the following year. The couple remained in the Boston area until 1958, while Pastan completed a library science degree at Simmons College and an M.A. in English at Brandeis University. During the next decade, Pastan immersed herself in domestic...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Linda Pastan was born Linda Olenic, the daughter of Jacob L. Olenic and Bess Schwartz Olenic. Her father, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was a surgeon, and Pastan married a molecular biologist, Ira Pastan, in 1953. She earned a B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1954, an M.L.S. from Simmons College in 1955, and an M.A. from Brandeis University in 1957. Pastan, her husband, and their three children settled in the Maryland countryside, near Potomac.
Pastan has been poetry editor of the literary magazine Voyages, has lectured at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, and has taught graduate workshops in poetry at American University. From 1986 to 1989, Pastan served on the governing board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Although Pastan received recognition for her poetry while a student, winning Mademoiselle’s Dylan Thomas Award (winning against Sylvia Plath), she did not work regularly on her poetry for ten years and did not publish a collection until 1971. Since that time, her books have appeared regularly, and she has received other prizes as well as critical praise in leading literary journals. Pastan has acknowledged the influence and support of the poet William Stafford and has been labeled a postconfessional poet, interested in sincerity as well as going beyond the personal.
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Pastan was born in New York, New York, on May 27, 1932, the only child of Jacob and Bess Schwartz Olenik. A melancholy poem about her parents, “Something about the Trees,” records Pastan’s childlike faith that her father would “always be the surgeon,” her mother, “the perfect surgeon’s wife,” and that “they both would live forever.” She began writing, she says, around age ten or eleven: “As a very lonely only child, reading and writing was my way of being part of the world.” The world of her poems is a peopled world, inhabited by parents, grandparents, husband, children, and lovers. It is also inhabited by mythic figures—Eve, Adam, and Noah, Odysseus, Penelope, Circe, and Achilles. These people, mythic and real, are often connected by Pastan’s ability to tell stories of loss and change. They are also connected through metaphors from ordinary times and common places, images of “ordinary weather / blurring the landscape / between that time and this.” Pastan writes many of the poems in Waiting for My Life, including “Ethics,” from this landscape of “between”—between past and present, youth and age, home and world. Metaphors from kitchens, closets, gardens, and porches inform the sense that Pastan’s life is rooted in the home, but that home is not necessarily a safe haven:
I tell you household gods are jealous gods. They will cover your windowsills with the dust of sunsets; they will poison...
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Biography (Poetry for Students)
Linda Olenik Pastan was born on May 27, 1932, in New York City. Her interest in writing poetry emerged when she was only ten or eleven years old, but she did not anticipate pursuing a career as a writer. In 1953, she married Ira Pastan, a molecular biologist, and the couple had two sons and a daughter. Pastan graduated in 1954 with a bachelor of arts from Radcliffe College. In 1955, she earned a master of library science from Simmons College, and in 1957 she received a master of arts from Brandeis University. Although she did not study writing formally, she continued to work at it and to seek improvement of her writing skills. She won the first of many poetry awards in 1958, when at age twenty-six she received the Mademoiselle Dylan Thomas Poetry Award. The noted American poet Sylvia Plath came in second. Among Pastan's other awards and honors are a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1972), a Bread Loaf Writers Conference fellowship (1974), the Poetry Society of America's De Castagnola Award (1978), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2003), and a Pushcart Prize. She held the position of poet laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995. Her first book, A Perfect Circle of Sun, was published in 1971. From 1971 to 2005, she published fourteen more volumes. Two of her books, PM/AM: New and Selected Poems (1983) and Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems, 1968–1998 (1998), were nominated for the National Book Award. Pastan's 2002 collection,...
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