In Remembrance of David Bonanno

December 20, 2017

David BonannoDavid Bonanno, longtime editor of The American Poetry Review, passed away on December 8, due to complications following a medical procedure, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was sixty-eight years old.

Bonanno joined APR in 1973, just one year after the magazine’s founding by editor Steve Berg, and continued to serve as an editor until his death. His dedication to literature also found him serving on the literary advisory panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and as a board member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

“Lefty [Bonanno] was a very brave man,” said AWP Executive Director David Fenza. “He served as treasurer of our board through some hair-raising financial challenges. He persevered with us because he believed AWP had a role in creating bigger audiences for poetry. AWP is indebted to him as a trustee and as an editor. He was a very generous man, who helped many poets and presses.”

Former Ploughshares editor and current director of Temple University’s MFA program Don Lee concurred: “He was one of the true unsung heroes of American poetry and publishing. Because he was so modest, his influence was never justly recognized. But that was part of his charm—his humility, his desire to stay in the background, giving the limelight to the poets he published. He’ll be sorely missed, but his contributions will last for generations.”

Bonanno helped make The American Poetry Review one of the premier venues for contemporary poetry. In 2001, he coedited The Body Electric, a volume of the best work from the magazine.

“David Bonanno was a mensch,” said Bonanno’s coeditor at American Poetry Review, Elizabeth Scanlon. “Everyone who knew him will remember the steady, true way he cared for his family, his Unitarian church community, and everyone he worked with. He was a funny, unassuming guy who really had integrity, and his dedication to The American Poetry Review was a sustaining force through many tough times. We will miss him so much. Having worked with him for twenty years now I can attest: it was a fast twenty years. He gave me a shot when I was a junior in college and walked into the APR offices uninvited and asked if I could help. I will always be grateful for that.”


Photo Credit: Suzanne Sheeder

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