Dr. Gerald Perkoff, the Missouri Review, and Stuart Z. Perkoff

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I happened to see a notice that the Missouri Review was offering a poetry prize named after Dr. Gerald Perkoff, whose name I instantly recognized as the editor of his brother’s volume of “Collected Poems.” I confess I was somewhat amused by the irony of an academic literary magazine with a poetry prize named after the brother of someone who dropped out of college before the first week of classes were over and who went on to be published in Donald Allen’s NEW AMERICAN POETRY in 1960. Stuart Z. Perkoff would most certainly have never submitted any poetry to the Missouri Review, and it’s probably the case that the editors there would not recognize any of Perkoff’s work, even the poem that Allen published in his anthology, “Feasts of Death, Feasts of Love.” That poem has, of course, the distinction of being the first long experimental poem about the Holocaust in American poetry. Even in Allen’s anthology, it was an outlier in its inclusion of several chunks of justified prose in the poem. No other poem in that poem so extensively intermingled both verse and prose.

The unusual disparity of this ensemble of cultural workers should not, however, distract us too much from this significance of the prize of the person whose memory it honors. I only wish that the entire context of Dr. Perkoff’s life and family were more visible. Here, for instance, is a link to an obituary for Dr. Gerald Perkoff. There is no mention of being predeceased by his brother, Stuart, ar that his brother Simon Perkoff is a noted jazz musician.

Such as that may be, anyone working on a cluster of poems that addresses themes of health and medicine should consider submitting the work to the Missouri Review.


Perkoff Prize