The Biographer by David M. Katz


We live in an age of memoir. Unlike previous eras, in which readers were encouraged to consider a poem or novel separately from the poet’s or novelist’s biography, the author’s life story seems today to have become the main thing—the primary element upon which a work of literature should be judged. In The Biographer, his fifth collection of poems, David M. Katz interrogates and explores that assumption.

The book’s title poem, Katz’s longest published work to date, tackles the issue head on. Heavily researched and packed with crucial themes that are indeed close to this particular poet (immigration, child abandonment, the elusiveness of memory, Judaism), “The Biographer,” is nevertheless entirely fictional, spoken by a female narrator who is clearly not the poet.

At the same time, practically all of the book’s other poems might also be called “biography-adjacent”—autobiographical, memoirish, impersonated, personal. Recollections of early childhood and family romance play a central part, as do Katz’s usual cast of presiding poetic deities, this time including the likes of Hart Crane, Cavafy, Delmore Schwartz, Poe, Dickinson, Joyce, Pound, Rilke, and Marianne Moore. David Katz is a poet whose work resides in a paradise of other poets.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 88
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: April 2024
  • ISBN   978-1-962847-07-0


Legend Must Do

I was born on the Lower East Side of New York
To shopkeepers just off the boat from Galitz
In the Russian Pale. My grandpa’s wrapped
In a story now, in the wooliness of legend.
Among the men we have woven into
A generation, he was drafted into the army
Of the Czar. His palooka of a sergeant
Was easy game, and grandpa took a pint
Of vodka out and got the sergeant drunk.
Weaving along the side of a ditch
In a dizzy march, the two moved on,
The officer fell in, and my grandpa deserted
Into the woods. I have no idea
Whether any of this is true, but
Legend must do when the facts are few.
My grandpa had an accent, opened up
A tailor shop, was father to my mother
And her sister (a Communist! “Milk
For babies!” she shouted for the poor).
That’s all I remember except for the lumpy vests,
The slight white frame, the scar of the appendectomy
He revealed to me, shaving by the frigid toilet.
“They cut out half my stomach, boychick.”
He smoked Phillies and died when I was eight.


David M. KatzThe Biographer is David M. Katz’s fifth book of poetry, preceded by In Praise of Manhattan, Stanzas on Oz, and Claims of Home, all published by Dos Madres Press, and The Warrior in the Forest published by House of Keys Press. Poems of his have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, PN Review (UK), The New Republic, The Hopkins Review, Shenandoah, Alabama Literary Review, The Cortland Review, and The Ekphrastic Review. He is a co-host of the Morningside Poetry Series in Manhattan and posts frequently on his website, The David M. Katz Poetry Blog ( He is starring in Gulliver’s Paradise, a film by Shalom Gorewitz that is currently in production.

Additional information

Weight 6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in