Stephen Dobyns

Stephen J. Dobyns (born February 19, 1941) is an American poet and novelist born in Orange, New Jersey, and residing in Boston.


Was born on February 19, 1941 in Orange, New Jersey to Lester L., a minister, and Barbara Johnston Dobyns. Dobyns was raised in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He was educated at Shimer College, graduated from Wayne State University, and received an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1967. He worked as a reporter for the Detroit News.

He has taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, and Boston University.

As a professor of English at Syracuse University, he was involved in a sexual discrimination scandal. Francine Prose defended him with faint damning of his accuser and the neo-Victorian victim-feminism policies of the school in an article that cast all parties in an unflattering light.


Dobyns' poems are deeply personal, precise renderings of a speaker informed by but not limited to his [Dobyns'] experience. Though the personae in the individual poems differ, they blend together in the collections to act as a voice in wonder of the beauty and cruelty of the world we live in. One might gather that, to Dobyns, the world is a woman he falls in love with who breaks his heart but who is so beautiful that he must fall in love with her again and again.

In much of his poetry and some works of non-genre fiction, Dobyns employs extended tropes, using the ridiculous and the absurd as vehicles to introduce more profound meditations on life, love, and art. He does not shy from the low, nor from the sublime, and all in a straightforward narrative voice of reason. This voice is strongly informed by his journalistic training.

For example, in the poem "Missed Chances" in Cemetery Nights, the nameless speaker wanders through a metaphorical city in which those who missed their big opportunities futilely rehearse for when that moment will next arrive.

His poetic works count among them the 1971 Lamont Poetry Selection (Concurring Beasts), a National Poetry Series award winner, and a Melville Cane Award winner (Cemetery Nights).

Dobyns has written many detective stories about a private detective named Charlie Bradshaw who works out of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. Bradshaw is unusual as a private eye protagonist, an ordinary man who was once a police officer. All the books have the word "Saratoga" in the title.

In the comic novel The Wrestler's Cruel Study, the protagonist roams through a modern cityscape populated by fairy-tale rituals, searching for his missing fiancée. He is alternately aided or hindered by a Friedrich Nietzsche -quoting manager and his Hegelian nemesis, to find that his wrestling matches are choreographed by a shadowy organization that enacts their various Gnostic theological debates through the pageantry and panoply of the ring. He eventually learns to resolve his own dualistic nature and determine who he is despite the role he plays.

Cold Dog Soup has been made into two films, the American Cold Dog Soup and the French Doggy Bag. Two Deaths of Señora Puccini has been made into the film Two Deaths. The movie Wild Turkey is based on one of his short stories.

The Church of Dead Girls is a novel about a small town's hysterical response to the mysterious disappearance of two of its teenaged girls.

Boy in the Water is a novel about what goes on in a secluded private school in the United States.



  • Concurring Beasts (1972)
  • The Reason Why (1973)
  • Griffon: Poems (1976)
  • Heat Death (1980)
  • The Balthus Poems (1982)
  • Cemetery Nights (1987) ISBN 0-14-058584-2
  • Body Traffic (1990)
  • Black Dog, Red Dog (1990) ISBN 0-03-071077-4
  • Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992 (1994) ISBN 0-14-058651-2
  • Common Carnage (1996)
  • Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides (1999) ISBN 0-14-058916-3
  • The Porcupine's Kisses (2002)
  • Mystery, So Long (2005)


  • A Man of Little Evils (1973) ISBN 0-689-10567-3
  • Dancer With One Leg (1983)
  • Cold Dog Soup (1985)
  • A Boat Off the Coast (1987)
  • The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini (1988) ISBN 0-14-023579-5
  • The House on Alexandrine (1990) ISBN 0-8143-2183-6
  • After Shocks/Near Escapes (1991)
  • The Wrestler's Cruel Study (1993) ISBN 0-393-03511-5
  • The Church of Dead Girls (1997) ISBN 0-8050-5103-1
  • Boy in the Water (1999) ISBN 0-312-97522-8
  • Eating Naked [SS] (2000) ISBN 0-312-27829-2

Charlie Bradshaw series

  • Saratoga Longshot (1976) ISBN 0-14-025196-0
  • Saratoga Swimmer (1981)
  • Saratoga Headhunter (1985) ISBN 0-14-015606-2
  • Saratoga Snapper (1986) ISBN 0-670-81059-2
  • Saratoga Bestiary (1988) ISBN 0-670-82024-5
  • Saratoga Hexameter (1990)
  • Saratoga Haunting (1993)
  • Saratoga Backtalk (1994) ISBN 0-393-03659-6
  • Saratoga Fleshpot (1995) ISBN 0-393-03805-X
  • Saratoga Strongbox (1998) ISBN 0-670-87692-5


  • Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry (1996)


External links

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