Countless poets throughout the years have found inspiration in isolation, salvaging diction from desire and destruction. Similarly, Richard Siken writes to the tune of lost love and a hapless journey of self-identity through an unmitigated sea of strangers.
Siken was born in 1967 in New York City. He later studied at the University of Arizona, earning a bachelor of arts in psychology and a master of fine arts in poetry. In 2001, he founded Spork Press, a quarterly literary magazine in Tucson, Arizona, where he continues to work as an editor.
In 2004, he published his first poetry collection, Crush, 15 years in the making and influenced by the passing of his boyfriend in 1991. “It made the book a little more about elegy,” he said in a 2006 interview with Poetry Foundation essayist Nell Casey, “and I guess a little more desperate because everything seemed fragile and temporary.”
Siken’s debut collection, consisting of poems revolving around love and loss, would later be a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for the Gay Men’s Poetry category. It won the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, selected by his fellow poet and contemporary Louise Glück.
“In the world of Crush, panic is a synonym for being,” Glück remarked. “In its delays, in its swerving and rushing syntax, its frantic lists and questions, it fends off time and loss.”
Siken published another poetry collection in 2015, titled War of the Foxes, an abstraction of the themes in his first collection. “My [writing] process hasn’t changed, but my concerns are different. Crush was focused on romantic love . . . In War of the Foxes, I wanted to show the difficulties of representation,” Siken said in a 2015 BookPage interview with Hilli Levin. Siken’s second collection earned him two residencies at the Lannan Fellowship for writers and activists as well as a Lannan Literary Award.
Siken has received a Pushcart Prize, two grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for his literary works. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, as a full-time social worker and Spork Press editor, as well as a painter and filmmaker in addition to being a poet.
This month marks National Poetry Month in the United States, and we’re celebrating by featuring our favorite poets of all ages, periods, and nationalities. Check out the Author Highlights series on our 1-Hour Proofreading blog for more feature posts on our favorite writers!
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