Stephen Dobyns

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Stephen Dobyns is an award-winning poet and the author of several mystery novels and one collection of short stories and another of essays. Critics tend to say that his writing leans toward the dark side, but most also admit that Dobyns has an incisive wit and sense of humor. He is known for writing about everyday events in the lives of everyday people in an everyday vernacular. It has also been said that he tackles his material with courage, which, in the end, produces writing that moves his audience.

Dobyns was born in Orange, New Jersey, on February 19, 1941. His father was a minister. He attended Shimer College in Illinois, later transferring to Wayne State University in Detroit, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1964. Three years later, Dobyns earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa. After gaining his master's, he taught for a short while but changed his career focus in 1971 when he became a reporter for the Detroit News. Throughout the years, he has been a visiting teacher at several colleges, such as Boston University, the University of Iowa, the University of New Hampshire, Goddard College, and Warren Wilson College; he has also been a professor of creative writing at Syracuse University. For most of his life, however, his attention has always been centered on writing.

Poetry is his main love, Dobyns has stated in various interviews. Concurring Beasts (1972) was his first published collection of poems, and it was the 1972 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Other works that have earned awards are Black Dog, Red Dog (1984), which was a winner in the National Poetry Series, and Cemetery Nights (1987), which won a Melville Cane Award. Dobyns has twelve poetry collections to his name, including Mystery, So Long (2005). Before being collected in book form, many of Dobyns's poems are often first published in prestigious literary magazines and journals, such as the American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, the New Yorker, Antaeus, Iowa Review, Paris Review, Gettysburg Review, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. Since most of his poetry lacks a traditional form, his poems fall into the categories of free verse and narrative poetry. Dobyns has been referred to as one of the best narrative poets in the United States.

In fiction writing, Dobyns is even more prolific, with twenty books to his credit. His mystery novels, with the recurring character Charlie Bradshaw, come under the series title of the Saratoga stories. Detective Bradshaw has been described as having visible flaws, which means that he is more human than many other stereotypical fictional detectives. The stories are set in Saratoga Springs, New York, where the racetrack typically serves as background. Dobyns's latest mystery in this series is Saratoga Strongbox, published in 1998.

Dobyns's other novels include Church of the Dead Girls (1997) and Boy in the Water (1998). In 2000, he published his first collection of short stories, Eating Naked.

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