I was born in southern Indiana in October of 1957, the same month the Russians launched Sputnik. I attended elementary school in Terre Haute, where I joined the Safety Patrol, read science fiction in the school library, and won a prize in a poetry contest (thus determining my future). When I was 12 my family moved to a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in a rolling landscape of abandoned farm fields dotted with two-hundred-year-old bur oaks, underneath turbulent northern skies.  In Junior High I asked for the Selected Poems of Dylan Thomas for Christmas and wore a green sweater vest (under the impression that this was artistic). I bought Elton John albums, discussed God in my church youth group, and was generally confused and hopeful. After high school I went to Northwestern University, where I majored in anthropology (because it seemed scientific) and minored in creative writing (because that was what I really wanted to do). After college I worked as a security guard, a handyman, a cigar salesman, a stringer for a local newspaper, and eventually as a writer for a pharmaceutical company. But the urge to write poetry proved unsurmountable. I earned a poetry MFA from Western Michigan University and went on to study at Boston University. Upon receiving a Ph.D. in American literature (my thesis was on Emerson), I taught for four years in Chicago; in 1999 I accepted a position at Winona State University, where I taught English and creative writing for 24 years. I still live in Winona with my wife, Laura. I help run the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest and play guitar in the Bell House Band.

I am the author of Monument in a Summer Hat (New Issues Press 1999) and Blue Lash (Milkweed editions 2006), and co-author with Kim Chapman of Nature, Culture and Two Friends Talking (North Star Press 2015). My latest book of poems, Empire (Shipwreckt Books), debuted in the summer of 2023.


Excerpt from Empire


I was born the month the Russian moon
crossed the night sky beeping
like a frenetic alarm,
America still yawning
at the factory gate
having just saved Democracy
for Walt Disney and General Motors—
maybe in that order.
You could smell the aluminum,
of a thousand tracts where women
high on hairspray and Good Housekeeping.
sent their children off
to a world terrified
by its victories.
The future seemed buzzy as neon
outside the Tastee-Freeze,
bright as the yellow coat of arms
of the fallout shelter
tacked to the courthouse entrance.
We’d grow up in fear
and polyester, television
our forever. In Sunday
school we watched
a movie about the Holocaust
and shivered to think that
someplace else
people could be so mean.