Alfred Corn was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1943. He grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, and received his B.A. in French literature from Emory University in 1965. He was awarded an M.A. in French literature from Columbia University in 1967, his degree work including a year spent in Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship and two years of teaching in the French Department at Columbia College.
His first book of poems, All Roads at Once, appeared in 1976, followed by A Call in the Midst of the Crowd (1978), The Various Light (1980), Notes from a Child of Paradise (1984), The West Door (1988), and Autobiographies (1992). His seventh book of poems, titled Present, appeared in 1997, along with the novel Part of His Story. Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992, appeared in 1999, followed by Contradictions in 2002, which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Most recently, he published Tables (Press 53, 2013).
In a review of Present in the Boston Review, Thomas M. Disch said "Happily Corn's poetry is more than the sum of his rare gifts, for underpinning these is a poetic persona as distinctively affable (though less raffish) as those of Merrill or James Schuyler or (when he's in flaneur mode) Frank O'Hara. It is not the regnant mode among poetry academics at the moment, but since at least the time of Byron and Wordsworth it has been the kind of poetry that most commends itself to readers of poetry. "
Corn has also published a collection of critical essays titled The Metamorphoses of Metaphor (1989), a study of prosody, The Poem's Heartbeat (1997), and a work of art criticism, Aaron Rose Photographs (Abrams, 2001). He is also the author of Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007 (University of Michigan Press, 2008). A frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and The Nation, he also writes art criticism for Art in America and ARTnews magazines.
Corn has received fellowships and prizes from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets, and the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine.
He has taught at the City University of New York, Yale, Connecticut College, the University of Cincinnati, U.C.L.A., Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Tulsa. He held the Amy Clampitt Residency in Lenox, Massachusetts, for 2004-2005, and is teaching a course at the Poetry School in London for 2005-2006.