Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, translator and editor. His most recent books include Scratch Pegasus (poems), Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre (translation), The Tolstoy of the Zulus: On Culture, Arts & Letters (essays), and The Mental Traveler (novel). He received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets for his version of Desolation of the Chimera by Luis Cernuda. He is the subject of a FloodLight Feature in Issue 5 of the online journal phren-Z .
His literary, cultural, personal and political essays and articles have appeared in dozens of periodicals, chiefly in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a founding editor and publisher of Alcatraz, an international journal (1979-1985), and The Sun, a Santa Cruz newsweekly (1986-1989), among other independent publishing ventures. Since 1999 he is the editor of the quarterly literary newspaper The Redwood Coast Review. He is also the editor and principal translator of The Sonnets by Jorge Luis Borges, published in April 2010 by Penguin Classics.
Born in Los Angeles in 1947, Stephen Kessler attended Beverly Hills High School and UCLA before finishing his undergraduate career at Bard College, where he received a BA in Languages and Literature in 1968. At Bard he edited The Lampeter Muse and, on graduation, received the William J. Lockwood Prize for “the student who has contributed most to the intellectual life of the college.” In 1968 he returned to California with a Regents Fellowship to study literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Following an acute psychotic episode in 1969-70, he abandoned an academic career (with an MA from UCSC) to serve his muse as a poet.
After reading various unconvincing English versions of Spanish and Latin American poets, in the early 1970s he made his first serious attempts at literary translation. In subsequent years he has earned high praise for his versions of Nobel laureates Pablo Neruda and Vicente Aleixandre, novelists Fernando Alegría and Ariel Dorfman, and such internationally acclaimed poets and prose writers as Julio Cortázar, Mahmoud Darwish, Raymond Queneau, Ernesto Cardenal, César Vallejo and Luis Cernuda, among others, and been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Lambda Literary Award for his translation of Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda.
Stephen Kessler’s essays, journalism and criticism have appeared steadily over the last forty years in hundreds of articles, columns, features, reviews and interviews in such journals and newspapers as Poetry Flash, San Francisco Review of Books, East Bay Express, North Bay Bohemian, Santa Cruz Express, Santa Cruz Weekly, Exquisite Corpse, Bloomsbury Review and others. His papers are collected at the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He lives in Santa Cruz and Gualala, California.