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Stuart Dybek  

Poet, Fiction Writer & Professor at Western Michigan University

Poet and fiction writer, Stuart Dybek, was born in 1942 and raised on the South Side of Chicago. He attended Loyola University in Chicago and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His collections of poetry include Brass Knuckles (1979) and Streets in Their Own Ink (2004). His works of fiction, including the short story collections Childhood and Other Neighborhoods (1980) and The Coast of Chicago (1990), and the novel-in-stories I Sailed with Magellan (2003), have prompted critics to rank him with such American literary giants as Ernest Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson.

Dybek’s work is firmly located in the city of his birth; both his stories and poems unfold in the working-class Slavic and Mexican neighborhoods of Chicago, areas bounded by the freeways, cement rivers, and rail lines of the “city of big shoulders.”

Dybek’s poems and fiction both feature a kind of shifting realism, one in which dreams and the imagination are just as present as gritty details of urban life. Dybek’s work “move[s] easily between the gritty reality of urban decay,’ noted John Breslin in the Washington Post, “and a magical realm of lyricism and transcendence linked to music, art and religion.”

Virginia Konchan, in Jacket, described Dybek’s poetry as “the work of a master prose stylist… Bluntly put, Dybek’s poems are less interested in remaining open to multiple interpretations as they are to capturing—I might even say nailing—moments of spiritual evisceration.” His two collections of poetry have been praised for their careful imagery, cool observation, and social witness.

The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation, Dybek has also received a PEN/Malamud Prize, a Lannan Award, a Whiting Writers Award, and several O.Henry Prizes. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared widely in journals such as Harper’s, Poetry, Tin House, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker. He teaches at Western Michigan University and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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