Gerald Stern Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Born in 1925 into a second-generation Jewish family, Gerald Stern grew up in Pittsburgh. He earned a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. from Columbia University, and did additional graduate work at the University of Paris. Stern began his working career as an English teacher and a principal. After spending a number of years in Europe, mainly Paris and London, during the 1950’s (though with a stint as an English teacher in Glasgow, Scotland), he returned to the United States and began teaching at Temple University in 1957. He also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Somerset County College in New Jersey, and, beginning in 1982, at the University of Iowa. Until his retirement, Stern would divide his time between his home in eastern Pennsylvania and the Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa, where he was a professor of English. After retirement, he maintained a hectic schedule of readings and workshops while living in both Easton, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Relocating to Lambertville, New Jersey, Stern served as poet laureate of New Jersey from 2000 to 2002, and later was named distinguished poet-in-residence at Drew University in its master of fine arts in poetry program.


(Poetry for Students)

Born on February 22, 1925, Gerald Stern grew up in a rough neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents, both Eastern European immigrants, were Orthodox Jews who sent him to a religious school, but he stopped practicing his faith shortly after his bar mitzvah. In childhood, Stern suffered from anti-Semitism; moreover, at age eight, he experienced the traumatic death of his nine-year-old sister Sylvia to spinal meningitis. In 1947, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and then earned his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1949. Although he began writing poetry in college, Stern taught college English for most of his professional career.

After graduation, Stern went to Paris for a year of travel and study at the Sorbonne, and it was there that he became seriously interested in poetry. Upon his return to New York, he entered a doctoral program at Columbia but left a year later to become the headmaster at a private school. He married Patricia Miller in 1952, and in 1953, they went back to Europe for three years. He eventually taught high school in Glasgow, Scotland. Upon his return to the United States, Stern began his college teaching career, holding positions at Temple University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Somerset County College. From 1982 to his retirement in 1995, he held a tenured position at the Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa. Throughout these years, he was...

(The entire section is 415 words.)