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.

Friends
Friends by Steve Orlen
Friends by Steve Orlen

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

Marvin Bell, Steve Orlen, and Jon Anderson in 1972
Photograph of Marvin Bell, Steve Orlen, and John Anderson in 1972.

Photograph of poets Jon Anderson, Steve Orlen, and Marvin Bell taken by LaVerne Harrell Clark in 1972.

Steve Orlen and Gail Marcus-Orlen
Photograph of Steve Orlen and Gail Marcus-Orlen c. early 1970s

Photograph of Steve Orlen and Gail Marcus-Orlen c. early 1970s. This photograph appears courtesy of Boyer Rickel.

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

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

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China by Steve Orlen
The Great Wall of China by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. “The Great Wall of China.” From A Place at the Table. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.

Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel
Photograph of Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel Winter 1979-80

Photograph of Steve Orlen and Boyer Rickel taken in the winter of 1979-80 by Gail Marcus-Orlen. This photograph appears courtesy of Boyer Rickel.

Jack August, C.E. Poverman, Steve Orlen, Gail Marcus-Orlen, and Boyer Rickel
Jack August, C.E. Poverman, Steve Orlen, Gail Marcus-Orlen, Boyer Rickel

Photograph of Jack August, C.E. Poverman, Steve Orlen, Gail Marcus-Orlen, and Boyer Rickel taken at poet Michael Collier's wedding. This photograph appears courtesy of Boyer Rickel.

Arizona Daily Star Editorial by Steve Orlen
Editorial by Steve Orlen in the Arizona Daily Star, 29 September 1985.

Steve Orlen. "Downtown Tucson Deserves the 'Certain Charm' of an Arts District." Arizona Daily Star 29 September 1985. Print.

In 1985, Steve wrote an editorial for the Arizona Daily Star championing the development of an arts district in downtown Tucson.

Steve Orlen in 1985
Photograph of Steve Orlen in 1985
Photograph of Steve Orlen in 1985

Photographs of Steve Orlen taken by Lois Shelton in 1985.

The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. The Bridge of Sighs. Oxford, Ohio: Miami University Press, 1992.

At the Indoor Shopping Mall
At the Indoor Shopping Mall by Steve Orlen
At the Indoor Shopping Mall by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. “At the Indoor Shopping Mall.” From The Bridge of Sighs. Oxford, Ohio: Miami University Press, 1992.

Kisses
Kisses by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. Kisses. Oxford, Ohio: Miami University Press, 1997.

This Particular Eternity
This Particular Eternity by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. This Particular Eternity. Keene, New York: Ausable Press, 2001.

Email from Steve Orlen to Frances Sjoberg
Email from Steve Orlen to Frances Sjoberg

Email from Steve Orlen to the Poetry Center's then-Literary Director, Frances Sjoberg, in 2003.

A Thousand Threads
A Thousand Threads by Steve Orlen
A Poet's Job by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. A Thousand Threads. Venice, California: Hollyridge Press, 2009.

Steve Orlen. “A Poet’s Job.” From A Thousand Threads. Venice, California: Hollyridge Press, 2009.

In his last book, a chapbook-length collection, Steve undertook an exploration of the lyric, writing in tight, compressed bursts. The poems here combine emotional intensity with Steve’s trademark directness of tone. “I hate that haughty big-city indifference,” he claims in “A Poet’s Job,” and many of the poems here can be read as part of an ongoing struggle to embrace the process and the pain of living.

Steve Orlen and Jane Miller in 2009
Steve Orlen and Jane Miller in 2009

Photograph of Steve Orlen and fellow University of Arizona Creative Writing faculty member Jane Miller at the Tucson Festival of Books in 2009. This photograph was taken by Christine Krikliwy.

Steve Orlen in 2009
Steve Orlen in 2009

Photograph of Steve Orlen reading at the Tucson Festival of Books in 2009. This photograph was taken by Christine Krikliwy.

The Great Wheel Turns
The Great Wheel Turns by Neil Antonio Diamente

Neil Antonio Diamente. “The Great Wheel Turns.” Elegiac poem, Fall 2010.

This elegiac poem was written for the occasion of a memorial tribute to Steve held at the Poetry Center on January 22, 2011.

Steve Rex
Steve Rex by Kelli Hansen

This poem in memory of Steve was written by his student Kelli Hansen.

four
four by Barbara Cully

Barbara Cully. “four.” Excerpt from “Study of Death.” From Desire Reclining. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

"For Steve, with love from Barbara." Barbara Cully, a longtime friend and colleague, chose this poem to dedicate to Steve for this memorial exhibition.

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