Ralph Angel, a second-generation American of Sephardic Jewish descent, was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1951. He attended inner-city public schools there, and, while working freight trains for the Union Pacific Railroad, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Washington. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Irvine, and has lived in and around Los Angeles ever since.  He is currently Edith R. White Distinguished Professor at the University of Redlands, and a member of the MFA in Writing faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts. 


Angel has traveled widely in Europe, North Africa, and Central and South America.  He commented in the “Afterword” to his translation of the Federico García Lorca collection,  Poema del cante jondo: “I come from a household of three languages—Ladino, Hebrew, and English— one that I could understand but not speak, one that I could sing but not understand, and one that is the language of my country, at some distance, always, from my home.”  When he came to translate Lorca’s poetry, he noted that he was familiar with the music that the poems paid homage to: “It resembled the incantatory medieval singing of the Sephardic synagogue that I grew up in.”  

Angel’s spare lyrics are set in an urban landscape that seems timeless, universal, and historical. In his 1996 Los Angeles Times review of Neither World (Miami University Press, 1995) Mark Doty stated: "The Los Angeles that Angel's poetry occupies and creates is never named, and for good reason, since it is not local but broadly American, a version of the psychological landscape of any American city today." 


Angel’s work has been lauded for its extraordinary abstract lyricism and wry philosophical wisdom. It also has been noted that his collections differ dramatically from one another, about which he has stated: “Poetry is the language for which we have no language. Given that I have only two tools—the language in which I compose and the fact of my reality—it’s my job to find the language that enacts the fact of my reality. If my poems have changed and evolved over the years, they are testimony to how my life and orientation to language have changed and evolved. It’s my job to make immediacy and presence possible.”


His first collection, Anxious Latitudes (Wesleyan University Press, 1986), was widely praised and reviewed. His second book, Neither World (Miami University Press, 1995), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, garnered him national prominence. A third work, Twice Removed (Sarabande Books, 2001), was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. His fourth collection, Exceptions and Melancholies: Poems 1986-2006 (Sarabande Books, 2006), was honored with the 2007 PEN USA Award for Poetry. His most recent collection, Your Moon (New Issues Poetry and Prose) was awarded the 2013 Green Rose Poetry Prize. And his translation of the Federico García Lorca collection, Poema del cante jondo / Poem of the Deep Song, received a Willis Barnstone Poetry Translation Prize.


His poems have appeared in scores of magazines, both here and abroad, and have been collected in numerous anthologies, including The Plume Anthology of Poetry, Pratik International, The Heart's Many Doors, The Best American Poetry, American Hybrid, Poets of the New Century, and Forgotten Language. Other recent literary awards include a gift from the Elgin Cox Trust, a Pushcart Prize, the Gertrude Stein Award, a Fulbright Foundation fellowship, and the Bess Hokin Award of the Modern Poetry Association.

Awards and Honors

  • Green Rose Poetry Prize, New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2013

  • PEN USA Poetry Award, PEN, 2007

  • Gertrude Stein Award, Sun & Moon Press, 2006

  • Elgin Cox Trust Literary Arts Gift, 2005-06

  • Poet in Residence, The Poet’s House, Falcarragh, Ireland, 2004, 2002

  • Willis Barnstone Poetry Translation Prize, 2003

  • Poet in Residence, Fundacíon Valparaiso, Mojacar, Spain, 1999

  • James Laughlin Award, Academy of American Poets, 1995

  • Pushcart Prize, 1995

  • Fulbright Foundation Fellowship, Slovenia, 1992-93

  • Bess Hokin Prize, Modern Language Association, 1988 


Books, Poetry

  • Your Moon, Kalamazoo, MI: New Issues Poetry and Prose

  • Exceptions and Melancholies: Poems 1986-2006, Louisville, Ky: Sarabande Books, 2006

  • Twice Removed, Louisville, Ky: Sarabande Books, 2001

  • Neither World, Oxford, OH: Miami University Press, 1995

  • Anxious Latitudes, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1986

  • History, Limited-edition chapbook, San Diego, California: Atticus Press, 1982


Books, Translation, Poetry

  • Poema del cante jondo/Poem of the Deep Song, Federico García Lorca, Louisville, Ky: Sarabande Books, 2006