Sanders is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Poem from Jail (1963), American Book Award winner Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961–1985 (1987), and Poems for New Orleans (2008). The author of the manifesto Investigative Poetry (1976), Sanders writes research-driven, investigative poetry and has composed several biographies in verse, including Chekhov (1995) and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg (2000). In 1998 Sanders began work on America, A History in Verse, a long poem projected to include nine volumes and thousands of pages.
In an interview with Poetry Daily, Sanders discussed his approach to investigative poetry: “Nonfiction is a kind of map of fragments of information sequenced together, like an elegant baklava with layers of meaning,” he alleged. “You have to think of different arrays of sequencing information […] You have to make an apt choice, or an artistic choice, or an aesthetic choice about what you put in—and what you leave out. It’s an art form when to say no. Especially in investigative poetry, it’s a mission.”
Sanders has written many books of prose, including the nonfiction book The Family (1971), which examines the Charles Manson murders; the four-volume fiction Tales of Beatnik Glory (1975); and Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (2011). For eight years he published a biweekly newspaper, the Woodstock Journal.
Sanders’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a founding member of the subversive, satirical folk-rock music group the Fugs.
Sanders lives in Woodstock, New York.