Poet and author Dan Gerber was born and raised in western Michigan. He earned his BA from Michigan State University and went on to have a varied career, including stints as a professional racecar driver, high school teacher, journalist, and corporate executive with his family’s company, Gerber Products. With Jim Harrison, Gerber co-edited the literary journal Sumac and has been writer in residence at institutions including Michigan State University and Grand Valley State College. The recipient of a Michigan Author Award, Gerber has also received the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contributions to Midwestern Literature.
The author of numerous collections of poetry, including Departure (1973), A Last Bridge Home: New and Selected Poems (1992), Trying to Catch the Horses (1999) and A Primer on Parallel Lives (2007), his work has also been included in The Best American Poetry series. Gerber’s poetry is frequently described as “lucid.” Drawing on anecdote, autobiography, and the lyric tradition, Gerber’s meditative poetry moves from outside event to inner experience. The poet W.S. Merwin described Gerber’s work: “The clear directness of Dan Gerber’s poetry has distinguished it since I began reading it in the early ‘70s. The purity of his language and the sharpness of his attention present landscape, event, and feeling as one.” Tackling subjects from childhood to animals, galaxies to consciousness, landscapes to the World Wars, Gerber’s poetry reflects his wide-ranging interests and experiences. As Gerber told Contemporary Authors, “Randall Jarrell‘s definition of a good poet, “a man who, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, manages to be struck by lightning a half dozen times,’ suits me. The active business of the poet is to keep his lightning rod polished and his ear tuned to the rumblings of distant thunder… A man struck by lightning is seldom appeased by house current.”
Gerber’s fiction and non-fiction writing similarly covers an array of topics and styles. He has written a nonfiction account of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race, in Indy: The World’s Fastest Carnival Ride (1977), several novels, including Out of Control (1974) and A Voice from the River (1990), and a short story collection, Grass Fires (1987). Much of Gerber’s work—poetry, fiction, and essays—concerns man’s search for a sense of purpose and values. Of his work across genres, Gerber told Contemporary Authors, “In poetry as well as prose, I feel less a creator than an instrument of experience. I write what presents itself to me as necessary.”
Writer. Worked as a professional race car driver for five years, and as a high school teacher of English in Fremont, MI, for two years; Grand Valley State College, Thomas Jefferson College, Allendale, MI, poet in residence, 1969-70; Michigan State University, East Lansing, writer in residence, 1970.
- (With Jim Harrison, Charles Simic, J. D. Reed, and George Quasha) Five Blind Men, Sumac Press (Fremont, MI), 1969.
- The Revenant, Sumac Press (Fremont, MI), 1971.
- Departure, Sumac Press (Fremont, MI), 1973.
- The Chinese Poems: Letters to a Distant Friend, drawings by Jack Smith, Sumac Press (Fremont, MI), 1978.
- Snow on the Backs of Animals: Poems, illustrated by Grant Wood, Winn Books, 1986.
- A Last Bridge Home: New and Selected Poems, illustrated by Russell Chatham, Clark City Press, 1992.
- Trying to Catch the Horses, Michigan State University Press (East Lansing, MI), 1999.
- A Primer on Parallel Live, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2007.
- American Atlas, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1973.
- Out of Control, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1974.
- Grass Fires: Stories, Winn Books, 1987.
- A Voice from the River, Clark City Press, 1990.
- Indy: The World’s Fastest Carnival Ride (nonfiction), Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1977.
Work represented in anthologies, including Heartland, edited by L. Stryk, Northern Illinois University Press (DeKalb, IL), 1967; Inside Outer Space, edited by R. Vas Dias, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1971; Keener Sounds: Selected Poems from the Georgia Review, edited by Stanley W. Lindberg and Stephen Cory, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1987; Under a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Kent Johnson and Craig Paulenick, Shambhala (Boulder, CO), 1991; The Best American Poetry, 1999, edited by Robert Bly; and From A to Z: 200 Contemporary American Poets, edited by David Ray. Contributor of poems to Young American Poets, published in Japan. Contributor of poems, essays, and stories to New York, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, New Yorker, Nation, Partisan Review, Georgia Review, Tricycle, Wind Horse, and other magazines.
- Library Journal, March 15, 1977, p. 724.
- New York Times Book Review, September 16, 1973, James R. Frakes, review of American Atlas, p. 4.
- Publishers Weekly, July 2, 1973, pp. 77-78; January 21, 1974, p. 79; June 29, 1990, review of A Voice from the River, p. 96.
- Washington Post Book World, May 12, 1974, p. 4, Joseph McLellan, review of Out of Control.
Audio & PodcastsThe Poetry Magazine Podcast
No Me, No You, No Opinions
Poems from Dorothea Grossman, Gisela Kraft, Carlo Betocchi, and Dan Gerber. Plus Adam Kirsch explains what gets lost in translation.