David Yezzi

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David Yezzi

David Dalton Yezzi (born 1966) is an American poet, editor, actor, and professor. He currently teaches poetry in the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University.

Director of the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City from 2001 to 2005, Yezzi has worked as executive editor of The New Criterion, associate editor of Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and on the staff of The New York Observer.[1]

Yezzi continues to serve as poetry editor of The New Criterion. "It is important to the magazine to publish strong poems," he said in a 2006 interview. "We publish three to five pages of poetry in every issue," in addition to a special feature on poetry in April.[2] "[T]here is a way in which most poetry disqualifies itself within a few lines," Yezzi said. "I would like to say that there are more good poems coming into our offices than we can use, but the truth is that we're always diligently on the lookout for good work. We sometimes solicit work from poets we admire so that we can fill the thirty to fifty pages a year. There's just not that much good verse out there."[2]

Asked what living poets he admires, Yezzi mentioned Geoffrey Hill, Richard Wilbur, A. E. Stallings, David Barber, and Adam Kirsch. He also mentioned Donald Justice and Anthony Hecht, whose official biography he is writing..[2]

Life and career[edit]

Yezzi was born in Albany, New York,[2] and earned a bachelor's degree in theater from Carnegie Mellon University and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Columbia University School of the Arts.[1]

In 1992, Herbert Leibowitz gave Yezzi his first editing job at Parnassus: Poetry in Review. Since then, he has held editing positions at The New York Observer and The New Criterion, returning to Parnassus as associate editor in 2000, and to The New Criterion as poetry editor in 2004.[1]

Before becoming executive editor at The New Criterion, he directed the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center, a reading series and writing program founded in 1939. Yezzi produced the weekly reading series at which poets, playwrights, novelists, and non-fiction authors share and discuss their work. In addition, he oversaw the center's youth outreach initiative, adult literacy project, writing program and he expanded the number of poetic dramas and dramatic readings[2] at the 92nd Street Y Poets' Theatre, which presents dramatic readings of plays written by poets.[1]

Prior to becoming director of the poetry center in 2001, Mr. Yezzi was chief administrator of The New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.[1]

In October 2009, he was poet-in-residence at West Chester University, in West Chester, Pennsylvania.[1]


Yezzi was actor and co-founder of the San Francisco theater company, Thick Description, and has performed in works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Brecht, Goethe, Williams and others in the United States and Europe.[1] In 2000, he performed with the company in Bertolt Brecht's The Visions of Simone Machard.

In 2006, Yezzi was producer for the stage adaptation of Glyn Maxwell's book of poetry, The Sugar Mile.

In June 2007, Verse Theater Manhattan produced a workshop reading of his verse drama On the Rocks, directed by Jim Milton, at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.

In March 2010, Verse Theater Manhattan presented Yezzi's evening of verse monologues, Dirty Dan & Other Travesties, at the Bowery Poetry Club, with music by Chris Lee, and performances by Yezzi, Lee, Bruce Faulk, Tony Torn, Sayra Player, and Max Woertendyke.

Awards and recognition[edit]

While in college, he won The Academy of American Poets College Prize and the Thomas Auclair Award for acting from Carnegie Mellon. In graduate school, he received the David Craig Austin Memorial Award from Columbia University (judged by Jorie Graham).[1]

In 1998, he was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University (1998–2000).[1]

His poems have been published in literary journals including The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry Daily and The New Criterion. His literary essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New York Sun, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The (London) Times Literary Supplement, Poetry and elsewhere.[1]

Yezzi's poem "The Call" appeared in The Best American Poetry 2006. The poem had originally appeared in New England Review

Of his latest book of poems, Azores, Adam Kirsch wrote in The New York Sun on April 23, 2008: "Like Hart Crane's 'Voyages,' 'Azores' is suffused with the eroticism of the sea. Unlike Crane, Mr. Yezzi concludes by recognizing that 'we are not suited to live long at sea,' that our 'lust for water' is countered by a 'fidelity to land.' The sophistication of Mr. Yezzi's language perfectly suits the sophistication of his understanding, and some of the poems in Azores — 'Very Like a Whale,' 'Dog's Life,' the brilliant and unexpected dramatic monologue 'The Ghost-Seer' — display a mastery reminiscent of Philip Larkin and Donald Justice, which no poet of Mr. Yezzi's generation can match. Anyone who enjoys those great civilized poets should read this one."

In December 2008, Azores was chosen as a Slate magazine "Best Book of 2008."




  • Two Ranges [Vertical] by Ernest Hilbert and David Yezzi (Nemean Lion Press, 2013), hand-sewn, signed-limited concertina book
  • Tomorrow & Tomorrow with an afterword by Denis Donoghue (Exot Books, 2012), ISBN 978-0-9844249-7-9
  • Such Root Satisfaction, 3 X 5 [Three by David Yezzi, Five by Ernest Hilbert] (Nemean Lion Press, 2010)
  • A Fletching of Hackles, Fresh Verse by Ernest Hilbert and David Yezzi (Nemean Lion Press, 2009)
  • Sad Is Eros (Aralia Press, 2003)



  • His libretto for a new chamber opera by composer David Conte, Firebird Motel, premiered in 2003 and is to be published by E. C. Schirmer. It was recently released on CD by Arsis.[1]
  • His libretto for a new opera by Cyril Deaconoff, The Last Tycoon (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's last, unfinished novel), received a workshop performance at West Bay Opera in the summer of 2011.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k [1] Google Cache of biographical sketch page of David Yezzi at 92nd Street Y Web site, accessed February 1, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e [2] An Interview with David Yezzi by Ernest Hilbert, The Cortlandt Review, Issue 32, June 2006, accessed February 1, 2007
  3. ^ http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=236544

External links[edit]

  • [3] Biographical sketch of Yezzi at the 92nd Street Y Web site, also available on a Google cache at [4]

Articles by Yezzi online[edit]

Poems online[edit]

Reviews of Yezzi's work[edit]