POET, MUSICIAN, JOURNALIST AND LEADING CULTURAL FIGURE OF THE ’60S
Sanders’s poetry has been likened in its energy and ambition to William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Allen Ginsberg. He has also written novels, short stories, and song lyrics. In a recent reappraisal of Sanders’s body of work, NPR’s Andrei Codrescu said that “Sanders has been an astonishing and fertile presence in our cultural and political landscape... But it is Sanders’s poetry, more than anything else he does, that pulls together all the varied strands of his interests to weave them into the body of one of our century’s most coherent poetics.”
Sanders is the author of a new memoir, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the F**k You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (June 2011). He has also finished new sections of his epic history-in-verse, America (2000-2010), including volumes devoted to the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, a major collection of his poetry was published in 2009— Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War.
Born in Kansas City in 1939, Sanders hitchhiked to New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1958. There he hung out on the edge of the Beat scene, preparing himself unwittingly for an important role that he would assume in American literary life: providing a bridge between Beatnik and Hippie generations. In 1961 he landed in jail for stripping naked and attempting to board a nuclear submarine. During the course of a short incarceration he wrote his first major poem (“Poem from Jail,” 30 pages) on toilet paper in his cell.
In 1971, Sanders published The Family, a critically-acclaimed profile of the “Manson Family,” widely regarded as a classic piece of journalism of its period. His poetry volumes include Investigative Poetry (1975), a collection and manifesto that exhorts poets to be whistleblowers in national life; Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century, Selected Poems 1961-1985 (1988), winner of the American Book Award; Chekhov (1995), a major verse biography of the Russian physician, writer and dramatist; 1968: A History in Verse (1997), a mix of memoir, anecdote and factual research about that fateful year; and Allen Ginsberg (2000), a biography-in-verse.
Sanders has received several writing awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry and an NEA poetry fellowship. With his wife he publishes the online Woodstock Journal.
Previous Visit: May 1, 1997