Citing Emily Dickinson as his earliest influence, Wallace uses received forms to explore natural and domestic themes with humor and lyricism. He is the author of numerous poetry collections, including For a Limited Time Only (2008), Long for This World: New & Selected Poems (2003), and the Wisconsin Library Association Banta Award–winner Time’s Fancy (1994), as well as the linked story collection Quick Bright Things: Stories (2000). His critical writing includes God Be With the Clown: Humor in American Poetry (1984), The Last Laugh: Form and Affirmation in the Contemporary American Comic Novel (1979), and Henry James and the Comic Form (1975). Wallace also edited the anthology Vital Signs: Contemporary American Poetry from the University Presses (1989).
Wallace is the founder and codirector of the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry and Halls-Bascom Professor of English. He has also served as director of the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.
Wallace’s work has been recognized with the Helen Bullis Prize, the George Garrett Award from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Posner Poetry Prize, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Major Achievement Award, the Robert E. Gard Foundation Award, the Joyce. J. and Gerald A. Bartel Award in the Arts, and numerous grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board. He lives on a 40-acre farm in Richland County, Wisconsin.