Harrison, Jeffrey 1957–

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Harrison, Jeffrey 1957–

(Jeffrey Woods Harrison)


Born October 10, 1957, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Robert Sattler (employed by a piano manufacturer) and Anne Harrison; married Julia Wells (an architect), 1981; children: William, Eliza. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1980; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1984; attended Stanford University, 1985-86, and Harvard University, 1988-89.


Home—Dover, MA. Office—University of Southern Maine, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, ME 04104-9300. E-mail—[email protected].


Poet. English teacher at Berlitz school in Japan; Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, research assistant, 1986-87; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, instructor in creative writing, 1989; George Washington University, Washington, DC, lecturer in creative writing, 1990-93; Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, writer in residence, 1997-2000; currently member of faculty, University of Southern Maine—Stonecoast. University of Maryland—College Park, visiting writer, 1991.


Poetry Society of America, Academy of American Poets, Modern Poetry Association.


Academy of American Poets Prize, 1983; Wallace E. Stegner fellow, 1985-86; grant from Ohio Arts Council, 1986; Tom McAfee Discovery Prize, Missouri Review, 1986; National Poetry Series Book Award, 1987, for The Singing Underneath; fellow of Ingram Merrill Foundation, 1988, 1995; Amy Lowell fellow, 1988-89; Peter I.B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, Academy of American Poets, 1989; fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1992; Guggenheim fellow, 1999; also received two Pushcart Prizes.


The Singing Underneath (poetry), Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Signs of Arrival (poetry), Copper Beech Press (Providence, RI), 1996.

Feeding the Fire (poetry), Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2001.

An Undertaking (chapbook), Haven Street Press, 2005.

The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems, Waywiser Press (London, England), 2006.

Incomplete Knowledge (poetry), Four Way Books/University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 2006.

Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Antioch Review, Boulevard, Crazyhorse, Harvard, Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Nation, Washington Post, and Yale Review.


Poet Jeffrey Harrison, according to Booklist reviewer Ray Olson, specializes in "poetry of experience." He "writes mostly long, blank-verse-like lines about a happy life of middle-class creativity, compassion, and passion," the Booklist contributor stated in an assessment of the collection Feeding the Fire. In the collections The Singing Underneath, Signs of Arrival, An Undertaking, The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems, and Incomplete Knowledge, Harrison makes art from the minutiae of modern life. "Observing the natural world, whether in his own backyard or halfway around the globe," declared a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of the collection Signs of Arrival, "Harrison infuses ordinary images … with significance." "Like a fine playwright," Olson concluded in his Booklist critique of Incomplete Knowledge, "Harrison brings us into his experiences so artfully that we feel their weight and their truth as ours."

A multiple award winner (his books have garnered him two Pushcart Prizes, the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Fellowship, and the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets), Harrison has been widely recognized for his talent. His books, stated Olson in a Booklist review of The Names of Things, remind readers of the works of "Robert Frost, and like Frost's, his poems expand in meaning as they are read, reread, and closely considered." Like Frost as well, Harrison celebrates the beauties of life in virtually transparent language, without ignoring the darker aspects of existence. For example, poems in the collection Incomplete Knowledge range in subject from a numinous vision of Manhattan Island on New Years Eve on the cusp of 2001 to thoughtful elegiacs on the subject of his brother's suicide and his grandmother's slow descent into dementia. "These memoirlike poems have the bizarre details real grief always includes," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer, writing about Incomplete Knowledge, "… along with the sadness no verbal talent can assuage." "In our bleak times," John Taylor concluded in the Antioch Review, "Harrison's by no means naive choice—of luminosity over darkness—is well worth pondering."

In addition to poems about appreciating the natural world and about his own life, Harrison also writes on the subject of maturity—especially the process of moving from childhood to adulthood. The works collected in Feeding the Fire, stated David Kirby, writing in the New York Times Book Review, "chronicle our growth from the cluelessness of childhood to that slightly greater state of awareness called adult life." In this volume, Kirby explained, Harrison's poems discuss sex and other transformative experiences from the points of view of childhood and adulthood, demonstrating that our understanding sometimes does not grow as we age; instead, adult perception may be the result of increased experience rather than greater wisdom. "The poetry of experience," Olson concluded in his review of Feeding the Fire, published in Booklist, "is seldom better."



Antioch Review, fall, 1997, John Taylor, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 501.

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Feeding the Fire, p. 375; October 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Incomplete Knowledge, p. 20; November 15, 2006, Ray Olson, review of The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems, p. 18.

Chelsea, June 3, 1997, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 139.

Hudson Review, winter, 1989, review of The Singing Underneath; summer, 2002, Brian Phillips, review of Feeding the Fire, p. 327; Mark Jarman, review of The Singing Underneath.

Library Journal, April 15, 1988, Robert Hudzik, review of The Singing Underneath, p. 83; September 15, 1996, Frank Allen, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 72.

Michigan Quarterly Review, fall, 1997, Wesley McNair, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 668.

New York Times Book Review, April 17, 1988, J.D. McClatchy, review of The Singing Underneath, p. 34; December 23, 2001, David Kirby, "More Is Still Not Better," p. 17.

North American Review, December, 1989, review of The Singing Underneath, p. 58.

Poetry, May, 1989, Ben Howard, review of The Singing Underneath, p. 107.

Publishers Weekly, March 18, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Singing Underneath, p. 79; October 28, 1996, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 78; October 16, 2006, review of Incomplete Knowledge, p. 36.

Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1997, review of Signs of Arrival, p. 66; spring, 2007, George David Clark, review of Incomplete Knowledge.


University of Southern Maine—Stonecoast Web site,http://www.usm.maine.edu/ (January 19, 2008), author biography.

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Harrison, Jeffrey 1957–