Written about working in a factory beside the Milwaukee River in 1970 when he was 24, Antler’s epic poem Factory was acclaimed by a wide range of poets, environmentalists and factory workers. Published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
as a book to itself in 1980 as #38 in the City Lights Pocket Poet Series, it was heralded by Allen Ginsberg as “the most enlightening and magnanimous American poem I’ve seen of ’60s and ’70s decades.” Of Antler’s book Last Words, published by Ballantine in 1986, Ginsberg said: “More fineness than I thought probable to see again in my lifetime from younger solitary unknown self-inspirer US poet…one of Whitman’s ‘poets and orators to come’.” His book Ever-Expanding Wilderness is seeking a publisher. Antler: The Selected Poems was published in December 2000.
Antler spends one to two months per year backpacking and/or canoeing through wilderness and ekes out a living by performing his poems far and wide in the spirit of Whitman’s invocation of poets who would be “itinerant gladness scatterers.” He won the 1987 Witter Bynner Prize awarded annually “to an outstanding younger poet” by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City, and the 1985 Walt Whitman Award, given annually to an author “whose contribution best reveals the continuing presence of Walt Whitman in American poetry.” The citation accompanying the Whitman Award stated: “His poems make audible the words of the earth, with original energy, insouciance, and affectionate comradeliness toward all beings.”
Introducing Antler’s poetry reading at the “Eco Glasnost Conference” held at the Kerouac Poetics School in Boulder in 1990, Gary Snyder said: “Antler has been writing with a clear focus in a vernacular mode dealing straight-on and first-hand with the actualities of American and planetary life. He’s a fine performance poet and one of the half-dozen or so truly committed wilderness poets in American letters.”
Antler’s poems have appeared in hundreds of periodicals, including City Lights Review, New Directions Journal, Whole Earth Review, Earth First! Journal, the Amicus Journal, Utne Reader, Exquisite Corpse, Kenyon Review, Chiron Review, New York Quarterly, Wilderness and The Sun. His poem “Somewhere Along the Line,” published in The Sun, was awarded a 1993 Pushcart Prize. His poems have also appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Erotic by Nature, Son of the Male Muse, Earth Prayers, The Soul Unearthed—Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal through Nature, Wild Song—Poems of the Natural World, What Book!?—Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop, The Journey Home: The Literature of Wisconsin through Four Centuries, and American Poets Say Goodbye to the 20th Century. He has taught at Esalen Institute in California, Omega Institute outside New York City, Antioch College in Ohio, and the Kerouac Poetics School in Boulder. He has performed his poetry at Wilderness University, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, the 1980 International Festival of the Poet in Rome, with poets from pre-Tiananmen-crackdown China in Nov. ’88 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and many other places.
He was chosen by Friends of Milwaukee Public Library to be Milwaukee’s poet laureate during 2002-03. In 2003 the Council of Wisconsin Writers chose him to receive its Major Achievement Award. When not wildernessing or traveling to teach and perform poetry, he lives near the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.