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After graduating in English Literature, 1959, from Occidental College (California), Kathleen Fraser went to NYC to work as an editorial associate for "Mademoiselle" magazine, pursuing her poetic studies with Stanly Kunitz at The 92nd St. Y "Poetry Center" and, briefly, with Robert Lowell and Kenneth Koch at The New School. At this time, she began to meet a number of New York poets associated with Black Mountain, The Objectivists and the New York School. Among these poets, those to have most important influence on her work were Frank O'Hara, Barbara Guest and George Oppen. She later counted the works of Lorine Niedecker, Charles Olson and Basil Bunting as having a serious impact on her poetics. In 1964 she won the Frank O'Hara Poetry Prize and the American Academy's "Discovery Award". Other writing fellowships have included two NEA Poetry grants, in 1971 and 1978, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry in 1981.
After seven years as a journalist—writing and editing—and the publication of her first book, Change of Address (Kayak, 1968), Fraser was invited to teach as a poet-in-residence for two years at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where her university teaching career began. She taught, subsequently, in contemporary literature and writing programs at Reed College and at San Francisco State University where she remained as a Professor of Creative Writing through 1992. In her early years at SFSU, Fraser directed The Poetry Center and founded the American Poetry Archives.
From 1983-1991, Fraser published and edited "HOW(ever)", a journal focused on innovative writing by contemporary women and "erased" or neglected texts by Anglo/American modernist women writers, together with associate editors Frances Jaffer, Beverly Dahlen and Susan Gevirtz and contributing editors Carolyn Burke and Rachel Blau DuPlessis.
She has published numerous volumes of poems and two children's books, including What I Want (1974), Magritte Series (1977), New Shoes (1978), Each Next, narratives (1980), Something (even human voices) in the foreground, a lake (1984), Notes Preceding Trust (1987), When New Time Folds Up (1993) and WING (1995). il cuore : the heart - New & Selected Poems (1970-1995), was published in 1997 and her book of essays, Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity, in 2001. Fraser splits her time between San Francisco and Rome. She is married to the philosopher/playwright Arthur Bierman.