Born Alfred Cohen in Alliance, Ohio, he legally changed his name in 1946. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces (1942–46) and graduated from Allegheny College (1948) and New York University (1954).
During the 1979–1980 academic year, Kern was Distinguished Visiting Professor of English at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which inspired several articles relating the arts to the military. These were published in the USAF journals.
During the 1980s, he also experimented with writing poetry using computers with an Allegheny College colleague, James Sheridan. According to a family member, he lived in Pittsburgh after retiring from Allegheny for about 10 years (apx 1987–1996), where he is still remembered (see "Sunday Forum: The Greed Trap" by Tom O'Boyle, 11-16-2008 Pittsburgh Post Gazette).
He died June 2, 2009 in Wilmington, North Carolina.
- The Width of Waters, novel (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959).
- Made in U.S.A., novel (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966).
- The Trial of Martin Ross, novel (New York: W.W. Norton, 1971).
Articles and papers
- "Hang the Enola Gay", published in War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities Vol. 7, No. 1 [Spring/Summer 1995], USAF Academy. Anthologized in Understanding the literature of World War II by James H. Meredith, Greenwodd Publishing Group, 1999, ISBN 0-313-30417-3, ISBN 978-0-313-30417-0
- "Waiting for Euripides", published in Journal of Professional Military Ethics, USAF Academy, April 1980. Anthologized in Military Ethics: Reflections on Principles, edited by Maham M. Wakin, James Kempf. DIANE Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0-7881-1311-9, ISBN 978-0-7881-1311-6
- "Humanities at the Hanoi Hilton",War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, USAF Academy. Vol 10, No. 2 Fall/Winter 1998 (see www.wlajournal.com/backissues.htm)
- "Barcelona", A Poem, War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, USAF Academy. Vol 1, No 2 1989–1990
- From "Vows and Infidelities", fiction, War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, USAF Academy. Vol 7, No. 2 Fall/Winter 1995
- "About Literary Wars" War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, USAF Academy. Vol 16, Nos.1&2 2005 Double Issue
- Basic Writing: The Student as Programmer, Paper presented at the 1986 ADE Summer Seminar at the USAF Academy. Referenced by Robert E. Cummings in Coding with power: Toward a rhetoric of computer coding and composition, published in Computers and Composition Volume 23, issue 4 2006 pp 430–443
- "GOTO Poetry", published in Perspectives in Computing #3, pp 44–52 1983. Cited in The Quest for Meaning by Louis Marinoff (p. 74), in Mind Versus Computer: Were Dreyfus and Winograd Right? By Matja Gams, Marcin Paprzycki, Xindong Wu, Penn State Press, 1997 ISBN 4-274-90181-5, ISBN 978-4-274-90181-2
- Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2002. PEN (Permanent Entry Number): 0000053569.