Poet Ann Lauterbach's work has been compared to the poetry of John Ashbery and Barbara Guest. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Many Times, but Then (1979), Before Recollection (1987), Clamor (1991), And for Example (1994), On a Stair (1997), If in Time (2001), Hum (2005) and Or to Begin Again (2009), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. If in Time, a volume of her selected poetry, demonstrates the transformation of her style over three decades, an evolution described by Thomas Fink in the Boston Review: “Lauterbach has found new forms for expressing the continuousness of change: its ways of summoning and disrupting intimacy, of evoking and subverting the position of perceptions and the framing and decentering play of language itself.”

Lauterbach was born in New York City, the daughter of a war correspondent for Life and Time magazines in Moscow who was also the head of the Moscow Bureau of Time during World War II. Lauterbach’s father died in 1950, when Ann was still a child; this absence and his absences while traveling would later feature in her poetry. As a child, Lauterbach studied painting and became especially interested in abstract expressionism. After receiving a BA in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964, she attended Columbia University for one year on a Woodrow Wilson graduate fellowship. At the completion of her studies, Lauterbach moved to London, England, where she edited books and taught literature. In 1974 she returned to the United States and immersed herself in the art world, working as an art consultant and an assistant director to various art galleries.

Lauterbach's linguistically complex, senstive work has been compared to the poetry of John Ashbery and Barbara Guest.“Suffice it to say that she evidently wants us to experience her work form-first, to sense its shapes before shaping a sense,” noted critic Andrew Osborn of the poems in On a Stair. Lauterbach seems to concur with this assessment. In a Rain Taxi interview, she declared, “I’m much more interested in a more difficult kind of sense-making, and I mean difficult in the sense of complexity, and obscurity, but not willful obscurity, just the fact that there are certain things we cannot penetrate and do not know, we can’t know, we may never know.” In an essay for the Poetry Society of America, she further discussed the disjunctions in her work: “I began to give up the use of classical syntax, the logic of cause and effect, of an assumed relation between subject and object, after my sister died. The narrative as story had been ruptured once and for all; I wanted the gaps to show.” In Or to Begin Again Lauterbach continues to investigate the potential of narrative and rupture, as well as the differences between spoken and written language; taking its title from a sixteen-poem elegy, the book also contains the long poem “Alice in the Wasteland,” which uses the work of both Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot to explore language, reading, and consciousness.

In addition to poetry, Lauterbach has published a book of essays, The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience (2005). She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. For over 15 years, she has taught at Bard College and co-directed the Writing Division of the MFA program. She has also taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Columbia University, Princeton University, and the University of Iowa.








  • Vertical, Horizontal, Seafront Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1971.
  • Book One, Spring Street Press (New York, NY), 1975.
  • Many Times, but Then, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1979.
  • Later That Evening, Jordan Davies (Brooklyn, NY), 1981.
  • Closing Hours, Red Ozier Press (Madison, WI), 1983.
  • Sacred Weather, with a drawing by Louisa Chase, Grenfell Press (New York, NY), 1984.
  • (With Bruce Boice) Greeks, photographs by Jan Groover, Hollow Press (Baltimore, MD), 1985.
  • Before Recollection, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1987.
  • How Things Bear Their Telling, with drawings by Lucio Pozzi, Collectif Generation (Colombes, France), 1990.
  • Clamor, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
  • And for Example, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
  • A Clown, Some Colors, a Doll, Her Stories,a Song, a Moonlit Cove, with photogravures by Ellen Phelan, Whitney Museum (New York, NY), 1996.
  • On a Stair, Penguin Poets (New York, NY), 1997.
  • If in Time: Selected Poems 1975-2000, Penguin Poets, 2001.
  • Hum, Penguin Poets, 2005.
  • Or to Begin Again, Penguin Poets, 2009.


  • The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience, Viking, 2005.

Contributor to books, including David Rohn’s Watercolors: 1969-1984, Museum of Fine Arts (Springfield), 1984; John Goode Gallery catalogue, John Goode Gallery (New York, NY), 1990; Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry, edited by James McCorkle, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1990; Brooke Alexander Catalogue, Brooke Alexander (New York, NY), 1991; Lieberman Saul Gallery Catalogue, Lieberman Saul Gallery (New York, NY), 1992; The Practice of Poetry, edited by Chase Twitchell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992; and Communion: Contemporary Writers Reveal the Bible in Their Lives, edited by David Rosenberg, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1995. Contributor to periodicals, including Artforum, American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, American Poetry Review, American Letters and Commentary, and Diacritics.




Further Readings


  • Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 193: American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
  • The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1995.


  • American Poetry Review, January-February 1988; May-June 1992.
  • Booklist, November 15, 1994, Elizabteh Gunderson, review of And for Example, p. 574.
  • Choice, March, 1980, review of Many Times, but Then, p. 74; December, 1987, M. Gillian, review of Before Recollection, p. 622.
  • Cream City Review, summer, 1988.
  • Denver Quarterly, spring, 1995.
  • Diacritics, fall-winter, 1996.
  • Hudson Review, spring, 1992, Andrew Hudgins, review of Clamor, p. 162; summer, 1995, Thomas M. Disch, review of And for Example, p. 345.
  • Ohio Review, no. 48, 1990.
  • Parnassus, spring-summer, 1981, Bonnie Costello, "Four Ways to Break the Silence," pp. 111-124.
  • Partisan Review, spring 1994.
  • Publishers Weekly, October 31, 1994, review of And for Example, p. 54.
  • Queen's Quarterly, spring, 1989, Myra Junyk, review of Before Recollection, pp. 159-162.
  • Talisman, fall, 1994; winter, 1995.
  • Times Literary Supplement, January 18, 1980, John Fuller, "The Americans," p. 65.
  • Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1991; winter, 1998, p. 28.
  • Wallace Stevens Review, fall, 1995.
  • Washington Post Book World, February 16, 1992, Harriet Zinnes, "Sound and Sense," p. 11.