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Course & Subject Guides

Places You Wouldn't Believe: Selections From the Gerald Stern Papers @ Archives & Special Collections: Early Literary Career

This library guide is an introduction to the Special Collection exhibit on Gerald Stern.

Stern graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1947 with a degree in English when the poetry scene in Pittsburgh was mostly non existent. While in college he found a support system through fellow poets Jack Gilbert and Richard Hazley and reading the poetry of Pound, Yeats, Eliot, Marianne Moore, and Cummings. After serving in the army from 1946-1947, Stern, Hazley, and Gilbert traveled to Paris in order to develop their writing skills. It was here that Stern worked on his long poem, Ishmael's Dream. While raising a family Stern taught both high school and college courses in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and even Scotland. In 1969 The Pineys, a long poem about the people who reside in the Pine Barrens, was published in the Journal of the Rutgers University Library.



Stern in Philadelphia, 1950's

Full manuscript and materials from The Pineys

Stern and son on the cover of Stylus, 1963


Letter from Stern to parents while living in Paris, 1951

Stern in Paris, 1949

Stern and daughter Rachel, late 1950's

Stern and Jack Gilbert in Paris,1949

Stern and his children, Rachel and David

“Now, there I was in 1948, in the midst of all this, you see, writing poetry, writing short stories, desperately trying to make – with no real access or information, no community, with no knowledge of how to proceed, with no poetry readings available, with no older poets to come in contact with – my archetypical move into aesthetics. I was going to museums, listening to music, going to talks, reading every book I could read. I made lists for myself. I read till I was blind, night and day, awakening and discovering in myself – with almost a kind of luxury – the joy of aesthetics, the joy of beauty, and all the complexity that lay therein.” 

–Interview with Stern by Leslia Klein for Boulevard, 1992.