Poet and scholar Peter Sacks grew up in South Africa. He visited Detroit as an exchange student in the late 1960s, witnessing another manifestation of the violent struggle for racial justice that marked his homeland. As a student at the University of Natal, Sacks was active in the anti-apartheid movement until he was drafted to join the military. He spent three months in military training before leaving for Princeton University, where he discovered poetry. He received his MA from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and his PhD from Yale University.
Sacks has published several collections of poetry, including Necessity (2002). His poetry is often rooted in the difficult intersection of South Africa’s painful history and the beauty of its landscape. His scholarly focus on the elegy also informs his poetry’s frequent explorations of personal, historical, and mythic loss. “These are poems of hopelessness, of despair, yet they are restorative in their waves of clear interrogative light, their keen and moving exactitude,” poet Carol Muske-Dukes said in the New York Times Book Review, praising Natal Command (1998).
Sacks has also written widely as a critic and scholar. His works include The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spencer to Yeats (1985), which won the Christian Gauss Award. He has also been awarded a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a residency from the Lannan Foundation. He has taught at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.