Diane Ackerman Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

While Diane Ackerman is known for her poetry, she is better known for her nonfiction work, which includes memoirs and narratives about scientific subjects. Ackerman’s early prose work focuses on her personal experiences learning different and unusual occupations. Twilight of the Tenderfoot (1980) recounts her time as a cowhand on a cattle ranch, while On Extended Wings (1985) focuses on her student pilot experiences. Perhaps her most famous work, A Natural History of the Senses (1990), was later adapted into a NOVA miniseries for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The Moon by Whale Light, and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians, and Whales (1991) contains four essays originally published in The New Yorker. Ackerman followed up on these two works with, respectively, A Natural History of Love (1994) and The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds (1995). Her essays, which usually focus on science and nature, have been published in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, and National Geographic. She edited The Book of Love with Jeanne Mackin. A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope and the Heart of a Crisis (1997) returned her to writing memoirs, as she recounted her experiences as a crisis hotline counselor. Deep Play (1999) suggests ways in which adults can recapture their childhood through play, while Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden (2001) discusses maintenance of her garden. In The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story (2007), Ackerman tells the story of a Polish zoo during World War II. In Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day (2009), Ackerman discusses different facets of nature and dawn throughout the changing of the seasons.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

While still in graduate school, Diane Ackerman won the Academy of American Poets College Prize, and in 1985, she won the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the same organization. She was a panel judge for the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1987 and 1991, respectively. She also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the John Burroughs Nature Award. Her best-selling book, A Natural History of the Senses, inspired a NOVA miniseries on PBS called Mystery of the Senses, which Ackerman hosted. She was honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for her 1991 book of poetry, Jaguar of Sweet Laughter. In 2008, she won the Orion Book Award for The Zookeeper’s Wife. She also has a molecule, “dianeackerone,” named after her.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Ackerman, Diane. “Diane Ackerman.” http:// diane ackerman.com. The official Web site of Ackerman features a biography and information on her books and appearances.

Christ, Ronald. “The Poet, Words, Truth, and Therapy.” Review of Origami Bridges. Santa Fe New Mexican, March 16, 2003, p. F2. Christ, publisher of Lumen Books, finds Ackerman to be a “tomgirl of poetry and prose,” and praises her authentic, multiple voices.

Gossin, Pamela. “Living Poetics, Enacting the Cosmos: The Popularization of Astronomy in Diane Ackerman’s The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral.” Women’s Studies 26, no. 6 (October, 1997): 605-639. Contends that Ackerman’s poetry, specifically Planets, is an important influence on the popularization of space and astronomy. Focuses on Ackerman as a living poet and thus able to actively influence others.

Laszlo, Pierre. “Emotions and Cognitions.” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 30, no. 4 (December, 2005): 341-348. Addresses various contemporary scientifically based poems. Discusses how science and poetry can be compatible despite the common conception that they do not have similar goals. Ackerman is used as an example.

Whitcomb, Claire. “Taking Time for the Marvelous.” Victoria 11, no. 1 (January, 1997): 24-27. Offers a personalized view of Ackerman. Focuses on her personality and everyday life leading up to the publication of A Natural History of the Senses.