A first book by Stephen Ackerman winner of the 2020 Gerald Cable Book Award
Ackerman's poem "If I Had as Many Hands as Vishnu" to be excerpted in the August issue of Harper's Magazine.
“LATE LIFE is Stephen Ackerman’s breathtaking debut poetry collection. Ackerman is the rare poet who can write the 21st century love poem for grown-ups–-love is present, exacting, unguaranteed, funky, numinous. Throughout this collection, the touch is so light, so sure, so kinetic, you can miss how visceral the stakes are. These tense lines know exactly how numbered every breath we take is, yet they can still ‘plant the mint and watch it thrive.’ Ackerman is an alchemist of the real, a believer in the transforming power of language who knows that our lives are inscribed in a vastness beyond words. A poem that visits the underworld doesn’t hope for reunion but just ‘The fingerprint, the whorl of who you never were / but sought to be.’ If there’s irony, it’s the irony of reality: this world is gorgeous and we die. Ackerman is an indelible writer, a poet of extraordinary eloquence.” — D. Nurkse
“At last! A book by Stephen Ackerman, whose poems I’ve been admiring—no, loving—for years as they’ve come out in magazines. Reading them all together now feels like a revelation about all that poetry can do, and be. Exuberant and sensual love poems, tender short lyrics, touching elegies, poems of praise, sorrow, childhood, marriage, fatherhood, friendship, celebrations of poetry itself. What binds them together is the voice—now playful, now wistful, now more somber, but always fresh—of a faithful, generous, and affectionate speaker who finds the sweet spot between candor and mystery, between the deeply personal and ‘the grammar of other lives,’ between subject matter and formal invention, who always surprises but never shows off, and always invites us to accompany him on his lively imaginative excursions, or just to sit with him quietly and look, listen, and remember. LATE LIFE may be late in coming, but it is indeed full of life, of ‘the unstable beauty of living.’ I certainly felt more alive while reading it. Its publication is an occasion not just for celebration but for rejoicing.” — Jeffrey Harrison
“Ackerman’s poems radiate lyric energy. They illuminate love and desire, the flux of the present and the flow of memory, as well as devastating loss and its aftermath. His use of refrain and repetition is incantatory and even his darkest poems possess a startling beauty. Experience is perfectly balanced with imagination, the art of storytelling with the art of song: this is a masterful collection.” — Jennifer Barber
“From the very first moment that I read Stephen Ackerman’s poems—which is now over forty years ago—I was dazzled by his abstract lyricism and his deadpan/everyman declarative humor. What we love so deeply in Koch and O’Hara is intricately woven through the rich fabric of Stephen Ackerman’s poetry. Poignant and pointed, sensual and psalm-like, this is work that is capacious, powerful and relentlessly generous in its vision of our world. To hold the poems of LATE LIFE in my hands has made me deliriously happy.” — David St. John
Stephen Ackerman worked as an attorney in the Legal Counsel Division of the New York City Law Department for over thirty years, and retired in 2019. He earned a B.A. from Columbia University, where he studied with Kenneth Koch and David Shapiro; an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University (The Writing Seminars), where he studied with David St. John; and a J.D. from Boston University. While at BU, he took a course in the Creative Writing Program with Linda Gregerson. His poems have appeared in many publications, including Best New Poets 2010, Boulevard, Columbia Review, Jewish Quarterly, Mudfish, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Plume, Red Wheelbarrow, Salamander, Seneca Review, upstreet, and Western Humanities Review as well as on Poetry Daily. He was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts, lived in Brooklyn for many years, and now lives in Poughquag, New York.