Editor, anthropologist, translator, and critic Nathaniel Tarn was born in Paris and studied English and history at King’s College, Cambridge, before pursuing anthropology at the Collége de France and the Musée de l’Homme. He attended Yale University and the University of Chicago on a Fulbright grant and studied at the London School of Economics. His first collection of poetry, Old Savage / Young City,was published in 1964, and he went on to publish poetry in both the United States and Great Britain. Tarn’s subsequent collections include The Beautiful Contradictions (1969), Lyrics for the Bride of God (1975), The House of Leaves (1976), Landsongs (1982), At the Western Gates (1985), Palenque: Selected Poems 1972–1984 (1986), Selected Poems: 1950–2000 (2002), Avia: A Poem of International Air Combat, 1939–1945 (2008), and Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers (2008).
Reviewing Selected Poems: 1950-2000 for Jacket, poet Brenda Hillman noted that Tarn’s poetry “redefines nature and art for human culture, bringing a genuine psychological and linguistic curiosity about the human mind.” Of his style, she observed: “Tarn manages an unusually flexible tone; he seems to be a man bargaining with reality.… He effects his tone through the use of fragments, uneasy segue ways, hesitations, alternating at times with long unpunctuated passages; he mixes prose and verse, brings in aphorism, remarks, songlike passages, technical language to allow the greatest emotional range.”
A respected translator and critic, Tarn translated Victor Segalen’s Stelae (1969) as well as Pablo Neruda’s Selected Poems: A Bilingual Edition (1970) and The Heights of Macchu Picchu (1966). Tarn’s critical writing has been collected in Views from the Weaving Mountain: Selected Essays in Poetics and Anthropology (1991) and The Embattled Lyric: Essays and Conversations on Poetics and Anthropology (2007).