Born in Youngstown, Ohio, poet, critic, and translator Bob Perelman was educated at the University of Rochester and the University of Michigan, where he earned an MA in classics, before earning an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.
Influenced by the work of Marcel Proust and Ezra Pound, Perelman’s poems disrupt sense and syntax as they search to connect body and language amid layers of commercialization, violence, and literary memory. In a 2007 review of IFLIFE, poet and critic Ron Silliman said it “at first appears to be that straightforward thing, a collection of poems, but when examined more closely reveals layers of connection from one poem to the next until a close reader becomes dizzy with the vertical dimensions that can lurk behind the simplest word.” In an interview for Jacket magazine with Chris Alexander, Perelman, in an explication of his poem “Flat Motion,” discussed the nuance and hopefulness of his use of the present tense, noting, “I was always excited to feel like I was writing in the present; but as soon as something’s on the page you can already see the past tense in full possession of whatever it is you’re writing. That sense of motion, appetite rushing forward, but also of frustration, of not getting enough […]”
Perelman is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including a.k.a. (1979), Ten to One: Selected Poems (1999), and IFLIFE (2006). He collaborated with his wife, the painter Francie Shaw, on Playing Bodies (2004). His play The Alps was first produced in 1980 in San Francisco. Perelman has also published the critical studies The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (1994) and The Marginalization of Poetry (1996). His translations appear in The Selected Poems of Tomaz Salamun (1988) and Modern Archaist: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam (2008).
Perelman edited two anthologies of speeches by poets: Talks (Hills 6/7) (1980) and Writing/Talks (1985). His own work has been featured in numerous anthologies, including Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (1994), Onward: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics (1996), and several editions of Best American Poetry.
Perelman teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.