Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Kevin Stein  

Pen Name: 


Audience: Adult; Young Adult; Children;


-- Kevin Stein on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Stein currently resides in central Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Kevin Stein is the the fourth Poet Laureate of Illinois. His poems and essays have appeared widely in journals such as the ''American Poetry Review''. His numerous awards include the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship.As Illinois Poet Laureate, Stein helped establish the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award in the Illinois Emerging Writers Competition that is offered by the Illinois Center for the Book. He served as the final judge of the competition from its inception in 2005 through his retirement in 2017.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

James Wright: Poetry Of Grown Man
ISBN: 0821409093

Ohio University Press. 1988

Although some critics have identified two phases in the poetry of James Wright and have isolated particulars of his movement from traditional to more experimental forms, few have noted also the elements of constancy in the evolution of his poetry. In this first comprehensive scholarly introduction to Wright’s work, Stein traces the unified growth of Wright’s poetry, asserting that while stylistic changes are often more apparent than actual, Wright does undergo a continuing personal and aesthetic development throughout his career. Stein examines the entire body of Wright’s poetry, including such previously unpublished materials as the collection Amenities of Stone.

Stein locates Wright in the Emersonian tradition which sees struggle with language as a struggle with the self -- a locating and defining of the self within a world of natural facts. Language, then, becomes a means of self-definition, and to be frivolous or irresponsible with language becomes a negation of the self and the world it inhabits. For Wright, “the poetry of a grown man” issues from this understanding. Because Wright joins the act of language with the act of selfhood, it is not surprising that the mode and tenor of his work would alter as the self redefines its values and goals, its very identity. In fact, Stein divides Wright’s career into three interrelated stages of development: “containment,” in which he relies on traditional religious and rhetorical measures to distance himself from a world of experience “vulnerability,” in which he enters the experiential world where the self is rewarded and equally threatened and “integration,” in which he accepts and balances the necessary combination of beauty and horror inherent in being human within a natural world.

Stein shows that throughout his career Wright’s presiding concern is to discover a way of writing and a way of life that might overcome the effects of an individual’s separation from the human community, the natural world, and the spiritual presence in the universe. In Wright’s world, to do less is to betray one’s language -- and one’s self.

A Circus of Want: Poems
ISBN: 0826208444

Univ of Missouri Pr. 1992

Bruised Paradise: POEMS (Illinois Poetry Series)
ISBN: 0252065379

University of Illinois Press. 1996

Private Poets, Worldly Acts: Public & Private History In Contemporary
ISBN: 0821412825

Ohio University Press. 1999

At a time when poets appear tragically detached from the public for which they write, Kevin Stein persuasively demonstrates in Private Poets, Worldy Acts the way a particular group of diverse poets have manifested their communal concerns. As Choice wrote, Stein's graceful text is a primer on the relationship of the (American) poetic to the political. Looking through the lens of the careers of Robert Lowell, James Wright, Frank O'Hara, Adrienne Rich, Philip Levine, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, David Wojahn, and Carolyn Forche, Stein illuminates the various ways contemporary poets redeem a vision of personal, aesthetic, and social relevancy from the shadow of traditionally narrated history. Available now in an affordable paperback format, Private Poets, Worldly Acts is a thoughtful and compelling look into American poetry's redemptive venture into the public arena. What results is a renewed appreciation of contemporary poets' personal conversation with the culture to which they belong.

Chance Ransom: POEMS (Illinois Poetry Series)
ISBN: 0252025989

University of Illinois Press. 2000

Book by Stein, Kevin

American Ghost Roses (Illinois Poetry Series)
ISBN: 0252072405

University of Illinois Press. 2005

The poet laureate of Illinois shoulders an array of poetic forms, blending pathos, humor, and social commentary in poems ranging from meditative narratives to improvisational lyrics that explore art's capacity to embody as well as express contemporary culture. Simultaneous.

Sufficiency of the Actual (Illinois Poetry Series)
ISBN: 0252076001

University of Illinois Press. 2008

In this ambitious collection, Kevin Stein enters the volatile intersection of private lives and larger public history. In poems variously formal and experimental, improvisational and narrative, wisely silly and playfully forlorn, Stein renders the human carnival flexed across the tattooed bulk of “history’s bicep.”

Musical and refreshingly unaffected, Stein’s poems yoke the domains of high and low art. His poems address subjects by turns surprising, edgy, and humorous. They offer musings on the Slinky and the atomic bomb, elegies for a miscarried pregnancy and the late physicist Edward Teller, reflections on night-shift factory work and President Eisenhower’s golf caddy, and meditations on the politics of post-colonialism and a youthful antiwar streaking incident. Against this vivid backdrop parades a motley cast of American characters seeking wiry balance in a fragile world.

Poetry's Afterlife: Verse in the Digital Age (Digitalculturebooks)
ISBN: 0472050990


"The great pleasure of this book is the writing itself. Not only is it free of academic and ‘lit-crit' jargon, it is lively prose, often deliciously witty or humorous, and utterly contemporary. Poetry's Afterlife has terrific classroom potential, from elementary school teachers seeking to inspire creativity in their students, to graduate students in MFA programs, to working poets who struggle with the aesthetic dilemmas Stein elucidates, and to teachers of poetry on any level."
--- Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Arizona State University

"Kevin Stein is the most astute poet-critic of his generation, and this is a crucial book, confronting the most vexing issues which poetry faces in a new century."
---David Wojahn, Virginia Commonwealth University

At a time when most commentators fixate on American poetry's supposed "death," Kevin Stein's Poetry's Afterlife instead proposes the vitality of its aesthetic hereafter. The essays of Poetry's Afterlife blend memoir, scholarship, and personal essay to survey the current poetry scene, trace how we arrived here, and suggest where poetry is headed in our increasingly digital culture. The result is a book both fetchingly insightful and accessible. Poetry's spirited afterlife has come despite, or perhaps because of, two decades of commentary diagnosing American poetry as moribund if not already deceased. With his 2003 appointment as Illinois Poet Laureate and his forays into public libraries and schools, Stein has discovered that poetry has not given up its literary ghost. For a fated art supposedly pushing up aesthetic daisies, poetry these days is up and about in the streets, schools, and universities, and online in new and compelling digital forms. It flourishes among the people in a lively if curious underground existence largely overlooked by national media. It's this second life, or better, Poetry's Afterlife, that his book examines and celebrates.

Kevin Stein is Caterpillar Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Bradley University and has served as Illinois Poet Laureate since 2003, having assumed the position formerly held by Gwendolyn Brooks and Carl Sandburg. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and criticism.

digitalculturebooksis an imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library dedicated to publishing innovative and accessible work exploring new media and their impact on society, culture, and scholarly communication. Visit the website at

Wrestling Li Po for the Remote
ISBN: 0984651055

Fifth Star Press, NFP. 2013

In this fresh poetry collection, Kevin Stein tussles with the current American moment’s skewed notions of social and aesthetic value. His gallery of subjects is bracingly contemporary, including Gold Star Mothers who’ve lost a child to war, nightshift factory workers, estranged veterans, guitarist Les Paul, one couple’s yard sale romance, a dog’s Valentine poem, and even riffs on toilet paper, Herodotus, congressional discord, and league bowlers. To each, Stein brings both empathy and an astute eye for cultural foibles. He maps his poetic province from this welter, grappling with Li Po’s quest for lyrical detachment as well as the counter urge for communal engagement. These poems—formally inventive and refreshingly accessible, at turns darkly humorous and trippingly caustic—pull no punches. They pose fundamental questions of self and art in the modern era.


  • Illinois Poet Laureate
  • Vernon Louis Parrington Medal for Distinguished Writing