Alicia Ostriker

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Alicia Ostriker
Alicia Ostriker at the National Book Festival, 2014
Alicia Ostriker at the National Book Festival, 2014
Born (1937-11-11) November 11, 1937 (age 81)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Alma materBrandeis University;
University of Wisconsin–Madison
ChildrenRebecca Ostriker
Eve Ostriker
Gabriel Ostriker

Alicia Suskin Ostriker (born November 11, 1937[1]) is an American poet and scholar who writes Jewish feminist poetry.[2][3] She was called "America's most fiercely honest poet" by Progressive.[1] In 2015, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.[4] In 2018, she was named New York State Poet.[5]

Personal life and education[edit]

Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, to David Suskin and Beatrice Linnick Suskin.[1] Her father worked for New York City Parks Department. Her mother read her Shakespeare and Browning, and Alicia began writing poems, as well as drawing, from an early age. Initially, she had hoped to be an artist and studied art as a teenager. Her books, Songs (1969) and A Dream of Springtime (1979), spotlight her own illustrations.[6] Ostriker went to high school at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in 1955.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Brandeis University (1959), and an M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1964) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1] Her doctoral dissertation, on the work of William Blake, became her first book, Vision and Verse in William Blake (1965). Later, she edited and annotated Blake's complete poems for Penguin Press.[1][6] Alicia is married to the noted astronomer Jeremiah Ostriker who taught at Princeton University (1971–2001); they have three children. Based in New York City, she currently teaches poetry at Drew University's Low-Residency MFA Program in poetry and poetry in translation.

Career and work[edit]

She began her teaching career at Rutgers University in 1965 and has served as a professor of English there since 1972. In 1969, her first collection of poems, Songs, was published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Her fourth book of poems, The Mother-Child Papers (1980), a feminist classic, was inspired by the birth of her son during the Vietnam War and weeks after the Kent State shootings; throughout, she juxtaposes musings about motherhood with musings about war.

Alicia Ostriker howling: remembering Allen Ginsberg.

Ostriker's books of nonfiction explore many of the same themes manifest in her verse. They include Writing Like a Woman (1983), which explores the poems of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, H.D., May Swenson and Adrienne Rich, and The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994), which approaches the Torah with a midrashic sensibility.[7] She wrote the introduction to Giannina Braschi's Empire of Dreams, a postmodern poetry classic of the Spanish Caribbean (1994).[8]

Ostriker's sixth collection of poems, The Imaginary Lover (1986), won the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. The Crack in Everything (1996) was a National Book Award finalist, and won the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award. The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968–1998 was also a 1998 National Book Award finalist.[9]

Ostriker's most recent nonfiction book is For the Love of God (2007), a work that continues her midrash exploration of biblical texts begun with Feminist Revision and the Bible (1993) and The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994). Dancing at the Devil's Party (2000) examines the work of poets from William Blake and Walt Whitman to Maxine Kumin. Early in the introduction to the book, she disagrees with W. H. Auden's assertion that poetry makes nothing happen. Poetry, Ostriker writes, "can tear at the heart with its claws, make the neural nets shiver, flood us with hope, despair, longing, ecstasy, love, anger, terror".[10]

Ostriker's poems have appeared in a wide variety of periodicals, including The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, The Atlantic, Yale Review, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Shenandoah Review, Antaeus, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Boulevard, Poetry East, New England Review, Santa Monica Review, Triquarterly Review, Seneca Review, Ms., Ontario Review, Bridges, Tikkun, Prairie Schooner, Gettysburg Review, Lyric, Fence, and Ploughshares.

A variety of Ostriker's poems have been translated into Italian, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic. Stealing the Language has been translated into Japanese and published in Japan.

Honors, fellowships, and awards[edit]

  • 1964-5 American Association of University Women Fellowship
  • 1966 Rutgers University Research Council summer scholar grant
  • 1967 American Foundation for the Advancement of Humanities Younger Scholar Grant
  • 1974, 1976, 1985, 1997, 2000 MacDowell Colony Fellow
  • 1976-7 National Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry
  • 1977 Breadloaf Writers' Conference Fellowship, 1977
  • 1977 New Jersey Arts Council Award in Poetry, 1977
  • 1979 A Dream of Springtime selected as one of the best small press titles by I
  • 1982 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for Research in the Humanities
  • 1984-5 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for Poetry, 1984-5
  • 1986 Strousse Poetry Prize, Prairie Schooner, 1986
  • 1986 Poetry Society of America William Carlos Williams Prize for The Imaginary Lover
  • 1987 Rutgers University Trustees Award for Excellence in Research
  • 1987 Djerassi Foundation Resident, summer
  • 1992 New Jersey Arts Council Award in Poetry
  • 1994 Edward Stanley Award, for poems published in Prairie Schooner
  • 1994 Judah Magnes Jewish Museum, Berkeley, Anna David Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience. First Prize for "The Eighth and Thirteenth."
  • 1995 Rutgers University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Contributors to Undergraduate Education
  • 1995-6 Fellow, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis
  • 1996-7 Associate Fellow, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis
  • 1996 The Crack in Everything finalist for a National Book Award
  • 1996 Poem in Best American Poetry
  • 1996 Poem inYearbook of American Poetry
  • 1997 Paterson Poetry Prize for The Crack in Everything
  • 1998 San Francisco State Poetry Center Award for The Crack in Everything
  • 1998 Readers’ Choice Award for poems published in Prairie Schooner
  • 1998 The Little Space finalist for a National Book Award
  • 1999 The Little Space finalist for Lenore Marshall Prize, Academy of American Poets
  • I999 February Residency at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio Study and Conference Center, Italy
  • 1999 Poem in Pushcart Prize Anthology
  • 2000 San Diego Women’s Institute for Continuing Jewish Education: Endowment Award
  • 2001 (fall) Visiting Fellowship, Clare Hall, Cambridge
  • 2002 Larry Levis Prize for poems published in Prairie Schooner
  • 2003 Best American Essays Notable Essay for “Milk.”
  • 2003 Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellow
  • 2007 Anderbo Poetry Prize distinguished poem
  • 2008 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice June 2008, for For the Love of God.
  • 2010 National Jewish Book Award in Poetry for The Book of Seventy
  • 2010 Prairie Schooner Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing, for poems published in summer 2009 issue.
  • 2010 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement for The Book of Seventy
  • 2011 Named in list of “10 Great Jewish Poets” in Moment
  • 2018 Named 11th New York State Poet [5]




  • Ostriker, Alicia (1969). Songs : a book of poems. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 9780030810190.
  • Once More Out of Darkness and Other Poems. Berkeley: Berkeley Poets' Press, 1974. ISBN 9780917658006
  • A Dream of Springtime: Poems 1970–1978. New York: Smith/Horizon Press, 1979. ISBN 9780912292533
  • The Mother/Child Papers. Los Angeles: Momentum Press, 1980. Rpt. Beacon Press, 1986, Pittsburgh, 2008. ISBN 9780822960331
  • A Woman Under the Surface. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1982. ISBN 9780691013909.
  • The Imaginary Lover. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986. ISBN 9780822935438
  • Green Age. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989. ISBN 9780822936244
  • The Crack in Everything. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996. ISBN 9780822939368
  • The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968–1998. 1998, University of Pittsburgh. ISBN 9780822956808
  • The Volcano Sequence. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002. ISBN 9780822957843
  • No Heaven. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. ISBN 9780822958758
  • The Book of Seventy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009, ISBN 9780822960515
  • At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems, Marick Press, 2010, ISBN 9781934851067
  • The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014, ISBN 9780822962915
  • Waiting for the Light, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017, ISBN 9780822964520


Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
April 2011 Ostriker, Alicia (February 2011). "April". Poetry. Retrieved 2015-03-03. Henderson, Bill, ed. (2013). The Pushcart Prize XXXVII : best of the small presses 2013. Pushcart Press. pp. 151–152.

Critical and scholarly books[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Alicia Ostriker Papers". Princeton University Library Finding Aids. Princeton University. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  2. ^ Powell C.S. (1994) Profile: Jeremiah and Alicia Ostriker – A Marriage of Science and Art, Scientific American 271(3), 28-31.
  3. ^ Random House | Authors | Alicia Suskin Ostriker.
  4. ^ "Alicia Ostriker" ""
  5. ^ a b "Academy Chancellor Alicia Ostriker Named New York State Poet 2018-2020". 2018-08-16. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  6. ^ a b "". Archived from the original on 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2011-12-08.
  7. ^ Ploughshares: Author Detail/Ostriker, Boston, April 23, 2009
  8. ^ Kuebler, Carolyn, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1994
  9. ^ Whitman, Ruth, Jewish Women's Archive, A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia [1]
  10. ^ Ostriker, Alicia, "Critical Inquiry," Vol. 13, No. 3, Politics and Poetic Value (Spring, 1987), pp. 579-596

Further reading[edit]