biography


Lewis Warsh was born on November 9, 1944, in the Bronx. His father was the principal of a public school in East Harlem and his mother was a reading teacher in a public school in the South Bronx. Warsh attended the Bronx High School of Science and City College of New York where he received a B.A. in 1966 and an M.A. in 1975, both in English. He lived in the Bronx with his parents in an apartment at 2194 Barnes Ave for seventeen years.

In 1962 his parents moved to 355 8th Ave in Manhattan, and in 1964 Warsh moved to his own apartment at 325 E 10th St. He lived there only a few months before moving uptown to an apartment in a low income housing project on 125th St and Amsterdam. He began writing poetry and fiction in his early teens and first published his poems in Wild Dog Magazine, an issue guest-edited by Joanne Kyger, in 1965. In the summer of 1965 he attended the Berkeley Poetry Conference where he met Anne Waldman. In the fall and winter of 1965-66 he lived at 188 E 3rd St in Manhattan. In spring 1966 he found a floor-through apartment at 33 St. Mark's Place where he lived until 1969. During this time he and Waldman founded Angel Hair Magazine and Books. He was part of a community of writers centered around The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church on the Lower East Side. This community included Ted Berrigan, Bernadette Mayer, Ron Padgett, Joe Brainard and George Schneeman, among many others. During this time Warsh's first books of  poems appeared--The Suicide Rates, Highjacking and Moving Through Air.

From 1969 to 1970 he lived in Bolinas, CA, where his neighbors included Joanne Kyger, Tom Clark, Bill Berkson, Bobbie Louise Hawkins and Robert Creeley. In the spring of 1971, he coordinated the reading series at Intersection in San Francisco and from 1972 to 1973 lived in Stinson Beach, CA. From 1973 to 1974 he lived in Cambridge, MA, in an apartment near Inman Square, where he co-edited The Boston Eagle with William Corbett and Lee Harwood before returning to New York in 1974. He lived at 216 E 10th St in Manhattan and taught a poetry workshop at The Poetry Project. A book of poems, Dreaming As One, was published in 1971 and a book of autobiographical writing, Part of My History, in 1972.

In 1975 he moved with Bernadette Mayer to a 200-year-old farmhouse in Worthington, MA, where his daughter Marie was born. From 1976 to 1979 he lived at 100 Main St in Lenox, MA, where he and Mayer founded United Artists Magazine and Books. His daughter Sophia was born in Lenox in 1977. In 1979, Warsh, Mayer and their family moved to Henniker, NH, where he taught at New England College and where his son Max was born. In 1980 he returned to New York to an apartment at 172 E 4th St, where he finished his first novel, Agnes & Sally, and where he continued publishing United Artists.

Between 1985 and 1988, Warsh lived at 304 5th Ave in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and 40 Clinton St in Manhattan before moving to an apartment at 701 President St in Brooklyn where he lived from 1989 to 1998. He published numerous books during this time, including Methods of Birth Control and Information from the Surface of Venus.

Between 1985 and 2020 he taught at Naropa University, SUNY Albany, Queens College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, The New School, The Poetry Project, and Long Island University in Brooklyn, where he was a professor in the English Department and founding director (2007-2013) of the MFA program in creative writing.

In 1994 he traveled in China and Tibet and co-translated with Wang Ping numerous contemporary Chinese and Tibetan poets.

His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology #1 & #2 (2006 & 2013), The Best American Poetry (1997, 2002, 2003), What Is Poetry? (2003), The Body Electric (2000), Primary Trouble (1996), American Poets Say Goodbye to the 20th Century (1996), From the Other Side of the Century: American Poetry 1960-1990 (1993), Another World (1971), and The Young American Poets (1967). He has received grants for his writing from The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York Foundation of the Arts, The Creative Artists Public Service Foundation, The Fund for Poetry and The Poet's Foundation. In 1993 he received the James Shestack Award from The American Poetry Review. He was one of the first editors in the country to receive the Editor's Fellowship Award from the Coordinating Council on Literary Magazines.

From 1998 until 2002 Warsh lived at 112 Milton St in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, before moving to West 16th St in Manhattan with his wife, Katt Lissard, until his passing in November 2020.

Click here to read a tribute to Lewis originally published in The Brooklyn Rail Dec 20 – Jan 21, 2021 Issue.

Lewis Warsh, 2010

Marie Warsh, Max Warsh and
Sophia Warsh, c1984

Katt Lissard, 2005

Katt Lissard and Lewis Warsh, 2008

Alyssa Gorelick and Zola Ray Warsh, 2014

Sophia Warsh and Zola Ray Warsh, 2014