Jack Collom was born in Chicago, Illinois, 8 November 1931, and grew up in nearby Western Springs. He walked a lot in Salt Creek Woods and began bird watching at age 11. He joined the U.S. Air Force and wrote his first poems in Tripoli, Libya. After spending time in Germany, he returned to the U.S. and worked in factories for twenty years. He has four grown children and is married to the writer Jennifer Heath.
He earned an MA in English on the GI Bill, and has taught Creative Writing free-lance for over thirty years. He is Adjunct Professor at Naropa University, where he received the 2001 President's Award for Faculty and has been teaching Eco-lit (Ecology Literature) for 19 consecutive years, as well as outreach teacher-training.
Collom has authored 22 books and chapbooks of poetry. He is, moreover, responsible for three collections (with essays and commentary) of writings by children, all published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative, New York. In 2001, Tuumba Press issued a more than 500-page-long volume, Red Car Goes By, as his Selected Poems. His latest books are Exchanges of Earth & Sky and Situations, Sings (with Lyn Hejinian).
Jack Collom long ago rejected the notion that a distinction is to be made between the quotidian and the poetic. There is poetry everywhere. But to find poetry everywhere means that one is incessantly engaged with the world at the level of poetry... His attention to surprise is pronounced but never programmatic. The result is (as Merrill Gilfillan has phrased it) "the dance and weave between fierce notation and ceilingless song."
from Editors' Preface to Red Car Goes By
A Garden Sonnet
A garden sonnet's perfect; it repeats
The set, yet varies, air to song and earth
To iris, gets itself going, slurring beats
Perhaps, but spying mantle, buried mirth—
The flowers grow; the regular comes to life;
The call makes such a mixture that response
Can only slice it like a tableknife
Might cut a day of butter, nonce by nonce.
The neighbor's dog is yelping; Jenny's rake
Scritch-scratches on the side; a robin sings;
The starlings repro noises 'gainst the lake
Of Colorado sky: particular things
Begin to mouse-rush in the domestic box.
So thought's a gardner, crazy like a fox.