Zimmer, Paul J. 1934-

views updated

ZIMMER, Paul J. 1934-


Born September 18, 1934, in Canton, OH; son of Jerome F. (a shoe salesman) and Louise (Surmont) Zimmer; married Suzanne Koklauner, April 4, 1959; children: Erik Jerome, Justine Mary. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Attended Kent State University, 1952-53, 1956-59, B.A., 1968. Politics: Democrat.


Home—11942 Hestetune Dr., Soldiers Grove, WI 54655. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Kent State University Press, 307 Lowry Hall, P.O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242.


Macy's Department Store, San Francisco, CA, manager of book departments, 1961-63; San Francisco News Co., San Francisco, manager, 1963-64; University of California, Los Angeles, manager of bookstore, 1964-66; University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant director, 1967-78; University of Georgia Press, Athens, director and editor, 1978-84; University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, director and director, 1984-1998. Poet in residence, Chico State College (now California State University—Chico), 1970, and University of Montana, 1998. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954-55.


Borestone Mountain Award, 1971; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1974-75, and 1982-83; Helen Bullis Memorial Award, Poetry Northwest, 1975; Pushcart Prize, 1977, 1981, 1993; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, 1985, for Family Reunion; National Poetry Series selection, 1988, for The Great Bird of Love; National Magazine Award, nonfiction essay finalist; cited among Notable Essays by Best American Essays series.


A Seed on the Wind, privately printed, 1960.

The Ribs of Death, October House (New York, NY), 1967.

The Republic of Many Voices, October House (New York, NY), 1969.

(Contributor) William Heyen, editor, American Poets in 1976, Bobbs-Merrill, 1976.

The Zimmer Poems, Dryad (Washington, DC), 1976.

With Wanda: Town and Country Poems, Dryad (Washington, DC), 1980.

The Ancient Wars, Slow Loris Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1981.

Earthbound Zimmer, Chowder Press, 1983.

Family Reunion: Selected and New Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1983.

The American Zimmer, Nightowl Press, 1984.

The Great Bird of Love, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1989.

Big Blue Train, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1993.

Crossing to Sunlight: Selected Poems, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1996.

After the Fire: A Writer Finds His Place (memoir), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.

Trains in the Distance (memoirs and essays), Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2004.

Editor, "Pitt Poetry" series, 1967-78.




While also working in academic publishing, Paul J. Zimmer has created a large body of work as a poet. He "is forever creating characters to inhabit the home of his poetry," noted a contributor in a Dictionary of Literary Biography essay. Much of Zimmer's work is peopled with historical as well as fictional characters; in collections such as The Zimmer Poems, the semi-autobiographical character "Zimmer" is the primary persona. The poet frequently uses an anecdotal approach in his work; as the contributor commented, "The reader watches Zimmer's characters struggle with their personal problems and dilemmas real or imagined, and experiences a certain affection for them whether he laughs or cries."

The one hundred poems collected in the 1996 volume Crossing to Sunlight: Selected Poems include some of Zimmer's previously published poetry as well as twenty-one new poems. A Publishers Weekly reviewer said the work showed that Zimmer had "a talent for gentle humor, thoughtful observation and melancholy reminiscence."

Zimmer's career in publishing has included directorial positions at three university presses. A reluctant retiree sometime before 2002, he has since published two memoirs, including After the Fire: A Writer Finds His Place. This book combines observations on Zimmer's enjoyment of his new life on a farm and the path that brought him to rural Wisconsin. His memories include growing up in Canton, Ohio, witnessing atomic testing in the army, and working as a writer and publisher. It is a "gently written, enjoyable memoir," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. And in the view of Library Journal 's Amy Strong, it "might best be described as nature writing dotted with personal memoir.…It provides a lovely sense of the quiet nobility of rural life." A critic for the Virginia Quarterly Review commented that "it is refreshing to read a memoir by someone who isn't famous" and judged that the book "succeeds as one man's effort to make sense of his life, taking stock of where he is, where he's been and where he's going."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.


Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Amy Strong, review of After the Fire: A Writer Finds His Place, p. 149.

Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, review of Crossing to Sunlight: Selected Poems, p. 72; May 6, 2002, review of After the Fire, p. 47.

Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 2002, review of After the Fire, p. 123.

About this article

Zimmer, Paul J. 1934-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article