Nathaniel Tarn

Picture of Author Nathaniel Tarn
Photo of Nathaniel Tarn & Janet Rodney, Santa Fe, 1998, by Tony Frazer.

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About the author

Nathaniel Tarn was born in 1928 in Paris of British-Lithuanian and French-Romanian parents, educated in France, Belgium and England, obtaining degrees from Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Chicago; he emigrated to the United States in 1970, where he taught at American universities until his retirement. He now lives just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although he is perhaps best-known these days as a poet and essayist, he is also an anthropologist, with a particular interest in Highland Maya studies and the sociology of Buddhist institutions, and a translator of the highest order (see above all his versions of Neruda's The Heights of Macchu Picchu and Victor Segalen's Stelae). His first collection of poetry was Old Savage/Young City (Cape, London,1964), which was followed the next year by his appearance in the seventh volume of the Penguin Modern Poets series. Three more collections followed in London, during which time he also became editor of the remarkable Cape Editions series of seminal modern texts: poetry, prose, anthropology, drama, many of them pioneering translations. He emigrated to the United States in 1970, after which only two more collections — the important volume A Nowhere for Vallejo and the ambitious book-length poem Lyrics for the Bride of God — were to appear in the UK. Thereafter, with the exception of his Shearsman publications and a single volume from Salt, all of his work has appeared in the USA, most significantly: The House of Leaves (Black Sparrow), Atitlan/Alashka (with Janet Rodney, Brillig Works), At the Western Gates (Tooth of Time Books) and Selected Poems 1950-2000 (Wesleyan University Press). There is also a significant volume of essays in Views from the Weaving Mountain (University of New Mexico Press). Tarn's work is remarkable for expansiveness and its willingness to absorb material from very disparate sources—in this, it owes something to the examples of Pound and Olson, but also a lot to the author's own anthropological training, his knowledge of other languages and his many interests, in areas such as archaeology.

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