Born in Miami, poet Karen Volkman earned a BA at New College and an MA at Syracuse University and completed doctoral work at the University of Houston. Her poetry collections include Crash’s Law (1996), selected for the National Poetry Series by Heather McHugh; Spar (2002), which won the James Laughlin Award and the Iowa Poetry Prize; Nomina (2008); and Whereso (2016). Her poetry has been featured in the anthologies The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology (2000) and American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (2007).
Full of lush sonic and syntactic moments, Volkman’s work has been lauded for its beauty as well as its difficulty. Reviewing Nomina for the Pedestal Magazine, Wynn Yarbrough noted that Volkman “straddles an interesting position in her poetics: between surrealism, postmodern ellipticism, associative playfulness and, in this collection, manipulation of formalism.” Volkman herself has expressed interest in the estranging effects of language. As she told the Academy of American Poets, “I believe one of the jobs of poetry is to allow readers to discover different and more complex ways of engaging experience, including the experience of their own inner lives, partly by surprising them into developing new modes of response in their reading, new freedoms. And it’s my hope that pleasure and intense sensation and a shock of strangeness will be part of how they get there.”
Volkman’s honors include a Pushcart Prize and a Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry as well as awards and fellowships from the Poetry Society of America, the Bogliasco Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Akademie Schloss Solitude.
Volkman has taught at the University of Montana, the University of Alabama, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Chicago. She lives in Missoula, Montana.