BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF AARON KRAMER (1921-1997)

[ Note: For the first detailed account of Aaron Kramer's life, see the essay "Aaron Kramer: American Prophet." in Wicked Times: Selected Poems of Aaron Kramer. Ed. Cary Nelson and Donald Gilzinger, Jr. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P: 2004. xvii-lix.]

Aaron Kramer (1921-1997) first gained national prominence with Seven Poets in Search of an Answer (1944) and The Poetry and Prose of Heinrich Heine (1948). He was a leading resistance poet throughout the McCarthy era with such texts for music as Denmark Vesey (1952) and such volumes as Roll the Forbidden Drums! (1954). In 1958, he collaborated with a dozen artists on The Tune of the Calliope: Poems and Drawings of New York. Professor of English at Dowling College, Oakdale, NY, since 1961 and founding co-editor of West Hills Review: A Whitman Journal, he has produced such scholarly works as The Prophetic Tradition in American Poetry (1968), Melville’s Poetry: Toward the Enlarged Heart (1972), and Neglected Aspects of American Poetry (1997).

Also a noted translator, Kramer produced Rilke: Visions of Christ (1967), A Century of Yiddish Poetry (1989) which includes his 370 translations of 135 poets, All My Yesterdays Were Steps (1995) the selected poems of Dora Teitelboim, and The Last Lullaby: Poems of the Holocaust (1998). His 1975 translation of Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kien’s opera, The Emperor of Atlantis, created in the Terezin concentration camp, continues in performance worldwide and is much recorded. Recent collections of his own poetry include The Burning Bush: Poems and Other Writings (1983), Indigo (1991), and Re-Grouping (1997). Volumes of his selected poetry were published in Russian and Bulgarian.

Kramer was a popular public reader and radio host across the United States, and he recorded for Folkway Records and the Library of Congress. He pioneered the therapeutic use of poetry for the disabled, also contributing many articles to professional journals in the field. The Second First Art, a Festschrift in his honor, was published in 1996. He received his PhD from New York University.

 

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