Alicia Ostriker Biography

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

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Alicia Suskin Ostriker was born Alicia Suskin in Brooklyn, New York, to David Suskin and Beatrice Linnick Suskin. Both parents held degrees in English from Brooklyn College. Her father worked as a playground director for the New York City Department of Parks, and her mother tutored students in English and math, and later taught folk dancing. Her mother wrote poetry and read William Shakespeare and Robert Browning to her two daughters, Alicia, and a younger sister, Amy David, born in 1948.

Ostriker received a B.A. from Brandeis University in 1955, and in 1958, she married the astronomer Jeremiah P. Ostriker, with whom she had three children: Rebecca (1963), Eve (1965), and Gabriel (1970). She earned her M.A. (1961) and her Ph.D. (1964) from the University of Wisconsin. In 1965, she began to teach in the Rutgers University English Department, where she became a full professor.


(Poetry for Students)

Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 11, 1937, to David Suskin and Beatrice Linnick Suskin. Her father was employed by the New York City Department of Parks. Ostriker’s mother wrote poetry and read Shakespeare and Browning to her daughter, who soon began writing her own poetry as well as showing an interest in drawing. Initially, Ostriker had hoped to be an artist, and she studied art as a teenager and young adult. Two of her books, Songs (1969) and A Dream of Springtime (1979), feature her own graphics on the covers.

Ostriker received her bachelor’s degree in English from Brandeis University in 1959 and her master’s and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. Her dissertation became her first critical book, Vision and Verse in William Blake (1965); later, she edited and annotated Blake’s complete poems for Penguin Press. In 1965, Ostriker began teaching at Rutgers University.


(Poetry for Students)

Alicia Ostriker was born on November 11, 1937, in New York City, to David, a civil service employee, and Beatrice Suskin, both of whom had earned bachelor degrees in English. Ostriker grew up in a housing project in New York City where her mother read Shakespeare and Browning, among others, which inspired a love of literature in her and prompted her to write her own poetry. Ostriker earned a B.A. from Brandeis University in 1959 and an M.A. (1961) and a Ph.D. (1964) from the University of Wisconsin. A year later, she began teaching at Rutgers University.

Ostriker’s first book of poems, Songs, was published in 1969. By the time her collections The Mother/Child Papers (1980) and A Woman under the Surface (1982) appeared, her reputation as an important American poet had been established. In 1986, her controversial treatise on literary feminism, Stealing the Language, was published. After that, she continued to write poetry, dealing with personal as well as spiritual topics and essays on gender and literature.

Ostriker’s work has been published in various periodicals, including the American Poetry Review, New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Nation, Poetry, and the New York Times Book Review. Her poems and essays have also been published in anthologies, including Our Mothers, Our Selves: Writers and Poets Celebrating Motherhood (1996); Worlds in Our Words: Contemporary American Women Writers (1997); Best American Poetry and Yearbook of American Poetry (both in 1996). Her poems have been translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Ostriker has received numerous honors and awards. Some of these are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1976–1977), the Pushcart Prize (1979, 2000); a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1982); a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1984–1985); and the William Carlos Williams Prize in 1986 for The Imaginary Lover. She was named a National Book Award finalist, received the Paterson Poetry Award, and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, all in 1996, for The Crack in Everything, which contains the poem “Mastectomy.”

In 1958, she married Jeremiah P. Ostriker, a professor of astrophysics, with whom she had two children. As of 2007, she was teaching English and creative writing at Rutgers University.