Mel Glenn Biography


Although most associated with Brooklyn, Mel Glenn was actually born in Switzerland to an American father studying medicine and an Austrian mother. When Glenn was three, the family returned to the United States and settled in Brooklyn, near Coney Island. As a child, Glenn relished the escape provided by books. He matriculated at New York University, initially in pre-med. Finding the curriculum unappealing, Glenn opted ultimately to pursue an English degree. He wrote, principally about sports, for the campus newspaper, deciding finally that journalism would be his field. After graduating in 1964, however, Glenn, fascinated as a child by the exotic ports he had studied in geography, volunteered for the Peace Corps and for two years taught English and history at a tiny Methodist missionary school in Sierra Leone. Despite its impoverished circumstances, the school taught Glenn important lessons on the dedication and enthusiasm that children bring to education. Returning stateside in 1967, he completed a master’s degree in education at New York’s Yeshiva University and taught junior high briefly until he accepted a position on the English faculty of Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, the same school he himself had attended. He would teach there for more than thirty years, retiring in 2001. Following his retirement, Glenn became a tireless promoter for reading and creative writing in schools.

His writing career—one of the most prolific and successful among contemporary young adult writers—did not begin until Glenn was thirty-seven. After being asked to review a colleague’s manuscript intended for submission as a young adult novel, Glenn confided to his wife that the manuscript was quite bad; she then challenged him to write his own. As a New Year’s resolution, Glenn did just that, finding in free verse form access to what had compelled him since his Peace Corps days: his fascination and respect for kids. Drawing on his background in...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

By reinvigorating the genre of young adult poetry, Mel Glenn has provided a significant body of work that depends on the ear-friendly rhythms and the accessible diction of free verse to explore difficult issues facing contemporary high school students. Glenn’s belief in the importance of every voice as well as his careful reproduction of the colloquial speech of young adults encourage a profound respect for the dilemmas of adolescence. Not compelled by an agenda to fix these problems, Glenn deploys poetry to do what important literature has always done: illuminate rather than solve complex dilemmas.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Melvyn Haskell Glenn is the son of Jacob Benjamin Glenn and Elizabeth (Hampel) Glenn. Glenn’s father, the son of a rabbi who kept the family’s surname Glembocki, was a Lithuania native who was naturalized as a U.S. citizen after immigrating in 1923. He completed his medical degree at the University of Switzerland in 1942 and was working as a physician in Zurich when his son Melvyn was born. Glenn’s mother, originally from Vienna, Austria, worked occasionally as a medical secretary. On December 5, 1945, Mel Glenn boarded the ship Gripsholm with his parents at Marseille, France. They arrived at New York City on December 17 and established their home in Brooklyn.

Glenn adapted to his American neighborhood, going to Brighton Beach and playing ball in the neighborhood park with his two brothers Gabriel and David. His father wrote medical and religious books and articles. When he was older, Glenn earned money working at Coney Island, a pharmacy, and a camp. He attended Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School, where he played on the tennis team. He enrolled at New York University, where he studied literature and creative writing. Glenn contributed sports stories to that university’s newspaper. In 1964, he completed a bachelor of arts degree.

Glenn’s interview with Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver inspired him to apply for Peace Corps work in West Africa. After graduation, he prepared for his Peace Corps assignment in Indiana,...

(The entire section is 464 words.)