In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.
When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, only four years after he received his master's, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as Director of the Creative Writing Program.
He is the author of Heartwood (1988), which was reissued by Orchises Press in 1998, Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991), The Late Romances (1997), Cenotaph (2000), Oracle Figures (Ausable, 2003), Reliquaries (2005), and The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (2008).
Pankey's poems have also been published in several anthologies including Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003) and The Poetry Anthology, 1912—2002 (Ivan R. Dee, 2004). His essay, "Meditative Spaces," was included in Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (Graywolf, 2007). He is the editor of This Particular Eden: The 1992 Missouri Arts Council Writers' Biennial and is the co-editor, along with Jeb Livingood, of Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar Press and Meridian).
About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."
His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.
He is currently a professor of English at George Mason University, in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife and daughter.
For the New Year (Atheneum, 1984)
Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991)
The Late Romances (1997)
Oracle Figures (Ausable, 2003)
The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (2008)