In memory of Kathleen Fraser, March 22, 1935–February 5, 2019

Dear Friend,  

Regretfully, we have the sad news to convey that we've lost our friend and fellow poet, colleague to some and a teacher to many, dear Kathleen Fraser. Our deepest sympathies to Arthur Bierman, Kathleen's husband of many years, to David Marshall, her son, and to the other members of Kathleen's family. 

The obituary notice below is courtesy of Stephen Motika, Kathleen's publisher at Nightboat Books, New York. Links to two of many Poetry Center recordings of Kathleen Fraser, a tribute from Poets House in New York City featuring Fraser's first book, notices and obituaries from The Poetry Foundation's HarrietThe San Francisco Chronicle, and Golden Gate XPress, and others follow. This page will be updated with any further notices. Photo of Kathleen Fraser at our home page © Jeannette Montgomery Barron.

February 6, 2019


Kathleen Fraser, beloved poet, essayist, and professor of writing at San Francisco State University, died on February 5, 2019, in Emeryville, California, of natural causes.

Known for her remarkable body of work—encompassing more than a dozen collections of poetry, seven collaborative artist’s books, a volume of essays, and her landmark editorial work championing women writers—Kathleen Fraser made a unique, unparalleled contribution to American literature. She saw her work as “making textures and structures of poetry in the tentative region of the untried.” Or as The New York Times said: “Fraser inhabits a room unquestionably her own, outside any school of poetry.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 22, 1935, Fraser attended Occidental College in Los Angeles before moving to New York City to work as an editorial associate for Mademoiselle magazine, pursuing her poetic studies with Stanley Kunitz and Kenneth Koch. At this time, she began to meet a number of poets associated with Black Mountain, The Objectivists, and the New York School. Among these poets, those to have most important influence on her work were Frank O'Hara, Barbara Guest, and George Oppen. She later counted the works of Lorine Niedecker, Charles Olson, and Basil Bunting as having a serious impact on her poetics.

Her first book, Change of Address, was published by Kayak Press in 1966. She went on to publish another dozen poetry collections, including What I Want (1974), New Shoes (1978), Each Next, narratives (1980), Something (even human voices) in the foreground, a lake (1984), Notes Preceding Trust (1987), When New Time Folds Up (1993), il cuore : the heart, Selected Poems, 1970-1995 (1997), and Movable TYYPE (2011). She collaborated on seven artist books, including boundayr, with Sam Francis, and ii ss, with Hermine Ford. She wrote a children’s book, Stilts, Somersaults, and Headstands, published in 1968. A collection of her essays, Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity, was published in 2000.

Dear Kathleen: On the Occasion of Kathleen Fraser's 80th Birthday, a book of essays honoring her work and career, was published in 2017. Her Collected Poems is forthcoming from Nightboat Books.

From 1972 to 1992, Fraser was a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she served as director of its Poetry Center, founded its American Poetry Archives, and wrote and narrated the video “Women Working in Literature.” She also taught at the University of Iowa, Reed College, and at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

In the early 1980s, she founded and edited the journal HOW(ever), focused on publishing innovative writing by contemporary women and reprinting work by modernist women writers. Fraser was the recipient of two N.E.A. Poetry Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry that took her to Italy in 1981, unexpectedly turning her into a part-time resident of Rome, where she lived every spring with her husband, Arthur Bierman. He survives her, as do her son, David Marshall; sister, Anne Bagwell; brother, Jim Fraser; and niece, Beth Bagwell.

Stephen Motika
Publisher, Nightboat Books


SF State professor and renowned poet passes away at 83
The Golden Gate XPress, San Francisco State, Feb. 13, 2019

Kathleen Fraser, poet and former SFSU professor, dies at 83
The San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2019

RIP Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)
Harriet, The Poetry Foundation, Chicago, Feb. 6, 2019

Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)
Nightboat Books, New York City, Feb. 6, 2019

Chapbook digitization project launches with Kathleen Fraser's Change of Address [1966]
Poets House, New York City, Jan. 16, 2019

VIDEO: Tribute to Kathleen Fraser: March 22, 2015
organized by Susan Gevirtz and Stephen Motika, co-sponsored by The Poetry Center, California College of the Arts MFA-Writing, and Small Press Traffic

AUDIO: Kathleen Fraser and Jack Marshall: April 29, 1968
first reading for The Poetry Center, San Francisco State College

AUDIO: Kathleen Fraser at PennSound