Mark Irwin

Professor of English
Mark Irwin
Pronouns He / Him / His Email Office THH 431 Office Phone (213) 821-0477

Research & Practice Areas

Monster: Distortion, Abstraction, and Originality in Contemporary American Poetry. (Peter Lang, NY, 2017)

Monster explores abstraction through spatial, temporal, and conceptual distortion and disjunction in contemporary American poetry, and references contemporary visual art as it argues that memorable and resonant poetry often distorts form, image, concept, and notions of truth and metaphor. Discussing how changes in electronic communication and artificial notions of landscape have impacted form and content in poetry, Monster redefines the idea of what is memorable and original through a broad range of poets including John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Laura Kasischke, W.S. Merwin, Mary Ruefle, Arthur Sze, and James Tate. Considering the impact of myth on originality, the book’s final chapter views contemporary and modern poets through the lens of three archetypal figures: “Orpheus, Parzival, & Bartleby: Ways of Abstraction in Poetry.”


Mark Irwin is the author of eleven collections of poetry, which include Joyful Orphan (2023), Shimmer (2020), A Passion According to Green (2017), American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014), Large White House Speaking (2013), Tall If (2008), Bright Hunger (2004), White City (2000), Quick, Now, Always (1996), and Against the Meanwhile: Three Elegies (1988). He has also translated Philippe Denis’ Notebook of Shadows, Nichita Stanescu’s Ask the Circle to Forgive You: Selected Poems, and Zanzibar: Selected Poems and Letters of Arthur Rimbaud (forthcoming with Alain Borer). His collection of essays, Monster: Distortion, Abstraction, and Originality in Contemporary American Poetry, was published in 2017. His poetry and essays have appeared in many literary magazines including The American Poetry Review, Agni Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Conjunctions, Georgia Review, Harper’s, The Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Pleiades, Poetry, The Nation, New England Review, New American Writing, The New RepublicThe New York TimesThe Southern Review, and Tin House. Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award, four Pushcart Prizes, two Colorado Book Awards, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright, Lilly, and Wurlitzer Foundations. He is a professor in the PhD in Creative Writing & Literature Program at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles and Colorado. His poetry has been translated into several languages.




  • Ph.D. English (1982), Case Western Reserve University
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Mark Irwin is a nationally acclaimed poet and four-time Pushcart Prize winner who has been described as a “descendant of William Carlos Williams and Hart Crane.” He is the author of nine collections of poetry, and he has also translated several French and Romanian works. Irwin teaches undergraduate and graduate poetry workshops.

    Research Keywords

    Poetry & Originality: “Have you been there before? No, this is the first time.”

    An essay that discusses geographers of the imagination: the work of John Ashbery, Ann Carson, Lydia Davis, Guy Davenport, Forrest Gander, Alice Notley, and W.S. Merwin, Srikanth Reddy, and Arthur Sze, among others.

    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

    Forms of Seeing, Way of Listening is a graduate forms class that examines how contemporary poets, painters, and composers cross new boundaries and borders in works that provide unique ways of seeing or perceiving the world. Artists include John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Jorie Graham, W.S. Merwin, Alice Notley, Peter Gizzi, Mary Ruefle, Eric Fischl, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Marina Abramovic, Philip Glass, and Joan Tower.

    "Poetry and Place in a Placeless World of Global Communication"

    This essay (book chapter) asks how notions of place, surprise, reality, and poetic form have changed as a result of electronic communication. How do new forms of contemporary poetry evince a new reality, even though we communicate more and more through virtual modes?


    Arthur Rimbaud Translations and Scholarship:

    Zanzibar: Selected Poems & Letters of Arthur Rimbaud.(with a 65 pp. afterword by Alain Borer)

    (work in progress)

  • Conference Presentations

    • “Poetry & Place in a Placeless World of Global Communication” , AWP Conference / Seattle, WashingtonTalk/Oral Presentation, AWP, Invited, Seattle, 02/27/2014
    • Poetry & Place in the 21st Century , Los Angeles Times Book FestivalRoundtable/Panel, LA Times, Invited, University of Southern Californis, 04/20/2013
    • Poetry Reading , Ashland University Summer MFA ProgramLecture/Seminar, Ashland University, Invited, Ashland, Ohio, 07/23/2010 – 07/30/2010
    • “Poetry & Memorability” , AWP ConfernceRoundtable/Panel, Associated Writing Programs, Norfolk, VA, Invited, Denver Hilton, 04/07/2010 – 04/10/2010
    • “Poetry & Memorability in a Technological Age” , Association of Literary Scholars & CriticsTalk/Oral Presentation, ALSC, Invited, Denver, 10/09/2009 – 10/11/2009
    • Poetry Reading , LA Times Book Festival, Los Angeles, CA, 04/28/2006 – 04/29/2006
    • Poetry Reading , Longmont Museum, Colorado, 03/15/2006
    • “The Poetry of Jim Simmerman” , Associated Writing Programs Annual ConferenceLecture/Panel, Atlanta, 03/01/2006 – 03/03/2006
  • Book

    • Irwin, M. (2017). Monster: Distortion, Abstraction, & Originality in Contemporary American Poetry. Peter Lang, New York.
    • Irwin, M. (2017). A Passion According to Green. New Issues, Western Michigan University Press..
    • Irwin, M. (2008). TALL IF. (Marianne Swierenga, William Olson, Ed.). Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University Press/New Issues Poetry & Prose.


    • Irwin, M. (2016). “Ethereal Streaked by the Real”: On the Poetry of Angie Estes. pp. 15. Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Press.
    • Irwin, M. (2015). “Poetry & Originality: Have You Been There Before?”. Norfolk, VA. AWP Journal.
    • Irwin, M. (2011). “Distortion & Disjunction in Contemporary American Poetry”. (Berg, Bonanno, Scanlon, Ed.). pp. 27. Philadelphia, PA. The American Poetry Review.

    Journal Article

    • Irwin, M. (2007). “Four Poems”. TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press. pp. p.NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Sermon” Poem. Hawaii Pacific Review/University of Hawaii. pp. p. vol 20.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Czeslaw Milosz’ Theater of Encounter” Essay. Lake Effect/Penn State University Press. pp. p. NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). Six Poems. Interim/University of Nevada. pp. p.NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Two Poems”. American Poetry Review/Academic Press. pp.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Passing” Poem. American Literary Review/University of North Texas. pp. p.NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Summons” Poem. American Letters & Commentary. pp. p.NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Four Poems”. LUNA/University of Minnesota. pp. p.NA.
    • Irwin, M. (2006). “Augenblick” Poem. Third Coast/Western Michigan University. pp. p.NA.


    • Irwin, M. (2009). “Here” and “The Singular of Trees”. (Paul Hoover, Ed.). pp. 2. San Francisco, CA. New American Writing.
    • Irwin, M. (2009). “In Winter” and “Red Feather”. (David Baker, Ed.). pp. 3. Gambier, Ohio. Kenyon Review.
    • Irwin, M. (2009). “Ghost”. (David Hamilton, Ed.). Iowa City, IA. Iowa Review.
    • Irwin, M. (2009). “On Sunday, Sometimes”. (Sidney Wade, Ed.). Gainesville, FL University of Florida. subtropics.
    • Irwin, M. (2009). “Landscape with Horse Named Popcorn”. (Christian Wiman, Ed.). pp. 1. Chicago, IL. Poetry Magazine.
    • Irwin, M. (2009). Two Poems: “Table of Contents,” “Tell Me”. (Sven Birkerts, Ed.). pp. 2. Boston University Boston, MA. AGNI REVIEW.
    • Irwin, M. (2008). “Empire”. pp. 1. Chicago, IL. Poetry Magazine.

    Poetry Collection

    • Irwin, M. (2020). Shimmer. pp. 70pp. Tallahassee, Florida. Anhinga Press. PubMed Web Address
    • Irwin, M. (2016). A Passion According to Green. pp. 70. Kalamazoo, MI. New Issues/Western Michigan University Press.
    • Irwin, M. (2008). TALL IF. pp. 73pp. Kalamazoo, MI. New Issues/ Western Michigan University Press.
    • ENGL 456: Contemporary World Poetry in Translation & Translation Workshop, English/Creative Writing, 2009-2010
    • 2018 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, 2019-2020
    • FDT Grant to University of Tours, France (Reading/Lecture), 2013/06/13-2013/06/14
    • Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences Award, 2010/06/30-2011/12/31
    • USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, for “Tall If” (a collection of poetry), Spring 2010
    • Mellon Mentoring Award for Graduate Students, 2009/04/21
    • 2006 Pushcart Prize for Poetry, 2006/06/09-2006/12/30
    • Colorado Book Award for Poetry: BRIGHT HUNGER, 2005-2006
    • Lois Beebe Hayna Award/Western Poetry Society, 2006/02/12
    • Poem “Ends” featured on Poetry Daily, 2006/01/25
  • Office Hours

      T/TH : 12:30-2:00pm, And by appointment on Wednesday
      T/W : 11:30-1:30 pm
  • Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Contributing Editor, Hotel Amerika, 01/01/2005 – 01/01/2011

    Professional Memberships

    • (AWP) Association of Writers and Poets/Norfolk, VA, 09/09/2006 –
    • Poetry Society of America, 01/25/2004 –
    • Association of Literary Critics & Scholars, 2012-2013