Online Exhibitions

Steve Orlen was an acclaimed poet, a formidable and compassionate teacher, and a friend to everyone he met. He taught at the University of Arizona for 37 years and helped to found its Creative Writing program. Steve was a tireless artist and observer, passionately interested in every poem, person, and conversation that came his way. We miss his buoyant personality, his belief in poetry, and his knack for asking difficult questions. Thank you, Steve, for your poems and for your good company.

This exhibit, curated by Sarah Kortemeier, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center in January 2011.

The Elephant's Child
Image of The Elephant's Child by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. The Elephant’s Child: New & Selected Poems 1978-2005. Keene, New York: Ausable Press, 2006.

Gail Marcus-Orlen. Elephants & Oranges. 1988. Oil on canvas. Tucson Airport Authority, Tucson.

Steve’s final full-length collection features cover art by his wife, the painter Gail Marcus-Orlen, whose works appear on the covers of many of his books.

Arizona Daily Star Guggenheim Announcement
Image of 1999 Guggenheim Fellowship announcement in the Arizona Daily Star.

Pila Martínez. "UA Prof Named Guggenheim Fellow." Arizona Daily Star 6 June 1999. Print.

Steve was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship in 1999; he was interviewed on that occasion by the Arizona Daily Star.

Permission to Speak
Image of Permission to Speak by Steve Orlen.
Image of dedication page from Permission to Speak by Steve Orlen.

Steve Orlen. Permission to Speak. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1978.

In his first collection, Steve established himself as a poet with a finely tuned ear for music, a knack for the narrative turn, and a love affair with physicality and sensory experience. The dedication page illustrates the key role friendships played in his artistic life; many of his poems are dedicated to friends, and many of his friends returned the favor.

The Best Halves Of Our Lives

Steve Orlen. “The Best Halves Of Our Lives.” From Permission to Speak. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1978.

Steve Orlen in 1971
Photograph of Steve Orlen in 1971.

Photograph of Steve Orlen taken by LaVerne Harrell Clark in 1971.

Ye Bruthers Dogg
"Ye Bruthers Dogg" by Jon Anderson.
"Ye Bruthers Dogg" by Jon Anderson.

Jon Anderson. “Ye Bruthers Dogg.” From In Sepia. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974.     

Jon Anderson, a fellow poet, UA faculty member, and close friend, carried an ongoing social and intellectual conversation with Steve throughout his life. This whimsical poem is dedicated to the Anderson and Orlen family dogs and appears in Anderson’s third collection, In Sepia.

Steve Orlen, Jon Anderson, and Neil Claremon in 1967
Photograph of Steve Orlen, Jon Anderson, and Neil Claremon in 1967.

Photograph of Steve Orlen, Jon Anderson, and Neil Claremon taken by LaVerne Harrell Clark in 1967.

Telling
Telling by Boyer Rickel

Boyer Rickel. “Telling.” Sonora Review 3 (1982): 67.

Tucson poet Boyer Rickel studied under Steve, and the two maintained a close friendship thereafter. The following poem dedicated to Steve first appeared in a very early edition of the University of Arizona’s graduate student-run literary journal, the Sonora Review.

Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel
Photograph of Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel c. 1978-82.

Photograph of Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel taken by Gail Marcus-Orlen (?) c. 1978-82. This photograph appears courtesy of Boyer Rickel.

A Place at the Table
A Place at the Table by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. A Place at the Table. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.

Arizona Board of Regents