Aaron Shurin was born on June 30, 1947, in Manhattan and raised in Manhattan, east Texas, and Los Angeles. He attended the University of California at Berkeley (from which he received his B.A. in 1969) where, in his own words, he “had much contact with San Francisco and its gay culture, as well as the Summer of Love psychedelic scene and its culture.” (All unattributed quotes from Shurin in this and the following section are from personal communications with the author, whose assistance has been invaluable in compiling this profile.) He was also “saturated in [the] period politics of protest from the Free Speech movement to People’s Park, where I rolled out sod with Denise Levertov’s poetry classmates. Moved, in fall 69, to the Boston Cambridge area, where I remained (73/74 in Provincetown) till 74, when I moved, to stay, [to] San Francisco.” In Boston, Shurin “was deeply involved in radical politics after Stonewall,” including being associated with the Fag Rag collective and cofounding the Good Gay Poets, one of America’s first gay men’s writing collectives, around 1971. “Boston area Gay Liberation was a foundation for my thinking, and totally informed the political poetics” of the poems that went into Shurin’s first full-length book, The Night Sun.
Shurin began to write and study poetry seriously as a student of Denise Levertov’s at Berkeley in the spring of 1969. Levertov was a close friend and mentor for many years and, as a deeply lyric poet with strong political commitments, was a model for Shurin’s “emerging sense of lyric mission and social activism.” The interrelation of poetry and politics has remained central in Shurin’s work, though taking many different forms over the course of his career. In his own words, he has struggled in his work to articulate a cultural political ethos with “an intuited