Siegel, Robert 1939-

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Siegel, Robert 1939-


Born August 18, 1939, in Oak Park, IL; son of Frederick William (a personnel manager) and Charlotte Lucille (Chance) Siegel; married Roberta Ann Hill, August 19, 1961; children: Anne Lenaye, Lucy Blythe, Christine Elizabeth. Education: Attended Denison University, 1957-59; Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, B.A., 1961; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1962; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1968. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, camping, travel.


Office—Department of English, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201. E-mail—[email protected]


Trinity College, Bannockburn, IL, instructor in English, 1962-63; Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, instructor, 1967-68, assistant professor of English, 1968-75; University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, assistant professor, 1976-79, associate professor, 1979-83, professor of English, 1983-99, professor emeritus, 1999—, coordinator of graduate program in creative writing, 1970-80, 1992-94. Visiting lecturer in creative writing, Princeton University, 1975-76; poet-in-residence and visiting professor of English, Wheaton College, 1976; visiting professor of English and American studies, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University, 1985. Resident poet, Greenlake Writers' Conference, 1974, 1976, and Wheaton College Summer Writers' Institute, 1980; faculty poet, Wesleyan Writers Conference, 1982, 1983. Teaching fellow, Breadloaf Writers' Conference, 1974; faculty poet, New England Writer's Conference, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006; Nick Barker writer-in-residence, Covenant College, 2008.


Authors Guild, Associated Writing Programs, Council for Wisconsin Authors, Chrysostom Society (president, 2004-07), Conference on Christianity and Literature (director, 1969-72), Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Association of Scholars, Association of Critics and Scholars.


Foley Award for poetry, America magazine, 1970; Dartmouth faculty fellowship, 1971-72; Transatlantic Review fellow, Breadloaf Writers' Conference, 1974; Yaddo resident, 1974, 1975; Chicago Poetry Prize, Society of Midland Authors and Illinois Council for the Arts, and Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation award, both 1974, for The Beasts & the Elders; Borestone Mountain Poetry Award, 1976; Jacob Glatstein Memorial Prize, Poetry magazine, 1977; Prairie Schooner poetry prize, 1977; research grants for poetry, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, 1978, 1984, and 1999; Ingram Merrill Foundation Award for Poetry, 1979; National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, 1980; Society of Midland Authors, 1981, for In a Pig's Eye; gold medallion from Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, book of the year award from Campus Life, and first prize for juvenile fiction from Council for Wisconsin Writers, all 1981, all for Alpha Centauri; Matson Award from Friends of Literature, 1982, for Whalesong; Golden Archer Award, School of Library Science, University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh, 1986, for Whalesong; sabbatical grants for writing poetry, University of Wisconsin, 1988-89, 1996-97; Pushcart Prize nomination, 1990, 1995; Milton Center Poetry Prize, 1994; EPA Prize, 2003.



A Tale Whose Time Has Come, illustrated by Karol Barske, Hidden House/Flash Books (Palo Alto, CA), 1975.

Alpha Centauri, Cornerstone Books (Westchester, IL), 1980.

Whalesong: A Novel about the Greatest and Deepest of Beings, Crossway Books (Westchester, IL), 1981.

The Kingdom of Wundle, Crossway (Westchester, IL), 1982.

White Whale, Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1991.

The Ice at the End of the World, Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1994.


The Beasts and the Elders, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1973.

In a Pig's Eye, University Presses of Florida (Orlando, FL), 1980.

The Waters under the Earth, Canon Press (Moscow, ID), 2005.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2006.

Also contributor to anthologies. Contributor of articles and over 250 poems to journals, including Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Atlantic Monthly, Carolina Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sewanee Review, Cream City Review, and New York Quarterly. Whalesong has been translated into German, Dutch, Japanese, French, Hebrew, Chinese, and Czech; White Whale and The Ice at the End of the World have been translated into German, Japanese, and Hebrew.


Whalesong was made into an audio recording.


Robert Siegel is both a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin's Milwaukee campus and a writer with a long list of works—both poetry and fiction—to his credit. His fictional works fall into the "fantasy" category, appealing to both adult and youthful readers. Alpha Centauri, for instance, tells the story of a girl who travels back in time to a mythical past to rescue a band of centaurs who are being persecuted by a band of humans. The Kingdom of Wundle relates the adventures of Prince Harold and his friend Gwendolyn as they seek to save their home from a sleeping spell cast by a monster called the Gryfus.

Siegel's poetry, however, focuses on the mysteries of nature, the sacramental presence found there and in the ordinary activities of life. According to a summary of the book on the Paraclete Press Web site, the works in A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, for instance, evoke the essence of "the being of each particular thing, finding epiphanies in the ordinary."

Siegel once told CA: "When asked what it is that moves me to write a poem, I confess it is the desire to call things up into words. This is the alchemy that fascinates me. Whether things are common or secret (and all things are both common and secret), I wish to call them up by the power of words—or rather, as words. A sensation, impression, or image will step out from its surroundings and demand my total attention. The thing itself will appear to rise up as words. Here is the wonder of the magic, what Keats called ‘natural magic.’ As the image reaches up toward the words, the words become the image, the thing itself. For one happy moment they are fused. Thing becomes word and word becomes thing in a process perhaps far more central to the workings of the universe than we know. Substance and meaning are fused. The terrible gap between experience and the articulation of experience is closed. The mind is one with what it perceives."

Siegel further stated that "this union, or participation, with the universe is perhaps one implication of St. John's infinitely suggestive phrase, ‘the Word became flesh’—though he is referring to something at once more mysterious and more specific. Fantasy stories, like poems, may bring about an experience of participation, since they arise from the sense of a reality behind appearances that is nevertheless expressed through appearances. Fantasy, like poetry, is a way of discovering the fusion of spirit and matter in an incarnational universe."



American Book Review, January 1, 2007, "A Poet Newly Revealed," p. 23.

Analog Science Fiction-Science Fact, June, 1983, Tom Easton, review of Alpha Centauri, p. 110.

Christian Century, November 12, 1980, review of Alpha Centauri, p. 1107; October 28, 1981, review of Whalesong: A Novel about the Greatest and Deepest of Beings, p. 1107; December 13, 2005, review of The Waters under the Earth, p. 25.

Christianity Today, November 21, 1980, review of Alpha Centauri, p. 42; November 25, 1991, review of Whalesong, p. 38; November 25, 1991, review of White Whale, p. 38.

Fantasy Review, January, 1986, Allene Stuart Phy, review of Whalesong.

Library Journal, August, 1980, Rosemary Herbert, review of Alpha Centauri, p. 1665; November 1, 1994, Henry Carrigan, review of The Ice at the End of the World, p. 65.

Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1981, Judith Szarka, review of Whalesong.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1981, Barbara A. Bannon, review of Whalesong, p. 78.

Rain, April, 1982, John Ferrell, review of Whalesong.

School Library Journal, February, 1983, Jane E. Gardner, review of The Kingdom of Wundle, p. 83; January, 1999, Barbara S. Wysocki, review of audio version of Whalesong, p. 70.

Sea Frontiers, October, 1994, review of The Ice at the End of the World, p. 59.

Sewanee Review, fall, 2006, Thomas Bontly, review of "The Great Chain of Being."

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1992, reviews of Whalesong, and White Whale, p. 376.


Paraclete Press Web site, (February 21, 2008), summary of A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems.