Terese Svoboda

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Svoboda at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival

Terese Svoboda is an American poet, novelist, memoirist, short story writer, librettist, translator, biographer, critic and videomaker.

Early life and education[edit]

Svoboda was raised in Nebraska. She attended local schools, then matriculated at Manhattanville College, the University of Nebraska, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Oxford University, Stanford University, the University of Colorado, and the University of British Columbia, where she graduated with a B.F.A. in studio art and creative writing. Columbia University awarded her an M.F.A.


Svoboda is the author of eight collections of poetry, seven novels, two collections of short fiction, a memoir, a biography and a book of translation.[1] The opera Wet, for which she wrote the libretto, premiered at RedCat at L.A. Disney Hall in 2005.[2] Her fourteen works in video have won numerous awards and are distributed worldwide.[3][4] In writing about her work, reviewers have noted her frequent use of humor to address dire subjects,[5] her interest in fabulism,[6] and her lyrical use of language, especially as a poet writing prose.[7][8] An ardent unconventional feminist, she often writes about women in the Midwest in a way that has been termed “exotic, sophisticated, and heartbreaking.”[9] Her travels for the Smithsonian's Anthropology Film Archive to the South Pacific and the South Sudan provide additional settings. Postwar Japan is the location for her memoir about executions of U.S. servicemen by U.S. authorities. Her work has appeared in Granta, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Poetry, New York Times, Slate, Paris Review. Her best work has been praised. The New York Post described her memoir, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent as "astounding"; The Washington Post regarded her biography Anything That Burns You as "magisterial". Theatrix: Play Poems is forthcoming from Anhinga Press in 2021.


Svoboda has held visiting teaching appointments at Sarah Lawrence College, The New School, Bennington College, the University of Miami, the University of Tampa, Fordham, Fairleigh Dickinson, Wichita State, Williams College, San Francisco State College, the College of William and Mary, Stonybook/Southampton College, and Columbia University's School of the Arts. Twice she has been the distinguished visiting professor at the University of Hawaii, and once the McGee Professor at Davidson College. She has also taught for the Summer Literary Seminars Program in St. Petersburg, Russia and Tiblsi, Georgia, the Kwani? LitFest in Kenya, and for the State Department and the University of Iowa's International Writing Program in Kenya. She has lectured at the Norman Mailer's Writers Colony, U. of Wellington (Victoria) Masters program in New Zealand, and as the Pabst Endowed Chair at Atlantic Center for the Arts.

South Sudan[edit]

After translating the songs of the Nuer people of the South Sudan on a PEN/Columbia Fellowship, she founded a scholarship for Nuer high school students in Nebraska.[10] She was consulting producer for "The Quilted Conscience," a PBS documentary on South Sudanese girls learning to quilt with Nebraskan women.[11]

Selected awards[edit]

She has won a Guggenheim and the Bobst Prize for fiction, the Iowa Prize for poetry, an NEH and a PEN/Columbia grant for translation, the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, a Jerome Foundation prize for video, the O. Henry award for the short story, two Appleman awards, and a Pushcart Prize for the essay. She is also a three-time winner of the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and has been awarded Headlands, James Merrill, Hawthornden, Bogliasco, Yaddo, MacDowell, Hermitage and Bellagio residencies. Her opera WET premiered at L.A.'s Disney Hall in 2005.

  • 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction
  • 2013 Money for Women Barbara Deming Memorial Fund
  • 2008 Best of Japan 2008 in the Japan Times for Black Glasses Like Clark Kent
  • 2007 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize
  • 2005 Appleman Foundation for WET libretto
  • 2003 Pushcart Prize for an essay
  • 1998, 1993 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship
  • 1998 Walter E. Dakin Fellow in fiction, Sewanee Writing Conference
  • 1994 Bobst Prize and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award
  • 1992 Margaret Sanger: A Public Nuisance, co-director/writer of an ITVS-produced video selected by The Getty as one of the best two experimental biographies of the decade[12]
  • 1990 Iowa Poetry Prize
  • 1990 Appleman Foundation grant for video
  • 1990 New York State Council for the Arts grant for video
  • 1988 Jerome Foundation Fellow
  • 1985 Emily Dickinson Award, Poetry Society of America
  • 1987 Cecil Hemley Award, Poetry Society of America
  • 1983 Creative Artist Public Service fellow
  • 1978 National Endowment for the Humanities grant in translation
  • 1974 PEN/Columbia Translation Fellow
  • 1973 Hannah del Vecchio Award in Playwriting


The highlights of Svoboda's video work include exhibition in Exchange and Evolution as part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time exhibition at RedCat,[13] Ars Electronica, PBS, MoMA, WNYC, L.A.C.E., Lifestyle TV, Berlin Videofest, Art Institute of Chicago, CalArts, AFI, Long Beach Museum of Art, New American Makers, Athens Film Festival, Ohio Film Festival, American Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival (Director's Choice), L.A. Freewaves, Pacific Film Archives, Columbus Film Festival, and Worldwide Video Festival. She also co-curated "Between Word and Image" for the Museum of Modern Art and Poets House, an exhibition that traveled to Banff and the Northwest Film Center.

Personal life[edit]

Svoboda is married to the high-tech inventor Stephen Medaris Bull, and she is the mother of three children.



  • All Aberration ISBN 0-8203-0807-2 / ISBN 978-0-87745-272-0 / eISBN 978-1-58729-235-4
  • Laughing Africa Iowa Prize in Poetry, ISBN 978-0-87745-272-0 / ISBN 9780877452805 / eISBN 978-1-58729-235-4
  • Mere Mortals ISBN 0-8203-3424-3 / ISBN 978-0-8203-3424-0
  • Treason ISBN 0970817762 / ISBN 978-0970817761
  • Weapons Grade ISBN 1557289069 / ISBN 978-1557289063
  • Dogs Are Not Cats (chapbook) ISBN 978-0-9885490-3-6
  • When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems ISBN 1934695459 / ISBN 978-1934695456
  • Professor Harriman's Steam Air-Ship ISBN 9781911335184
  • Theatrix: Poetry Plays ISBN 1934695696
List of poems
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Contrail 2014 "Contrail". The New Yorker. Vol. 90, no. 40. December 15, 2014. p. 47.


Short fiction[edit]





  1. ^ "Terese Svoboda". Retrieved 2014-10-16.
  2. ^ "Anne Lebaron and Terese Svoboda: Wet". REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater). redcat.org. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  3. ^ "Terese Svoboda". Experimental Television Center. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 2023-05-13.
  4. ^ "Terese Svoboda".
  5. ^ "Pirate Talk or Mermalade".
  6. ^ "Tin God".
  7. ^ "A Drink Called Paradise".
  8. ^ "Weapons Grade".
  9. ^ "An interview with Ladette Randolph". www.thenervousbreakdown.com. October 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Nuer scholarship". www.theindependent.com. 17 March 2008.
  11. ^ "Nuer scholarship". nebraskapress.typepad.com.
  12. ^ "Margaret Sanger". www.wmm.com.
  13. ^ "RedCat". www.redcat.org.

External links[edit]