About the Author

May 21st, 2010

Seth Steinzor, Portrait of the artist as a young man

Seth Steinzor,  the Minneapolis phase

Seth Steinzor was born to Jewish parents in San Jose, California in 1952, shortly before the family had to leave town for Minneapolis.  When asked about that time in Minnesota, he professes to have little to say.

University jobs for ceramics teachers being what they are, or were, Steinzor’s father, also named Steinzor, soon had to move again, landing in Buffalo, New York.  Family legend has it that the first apartment there was a walkup on Hertel Avenue with a bar and a prostitute downstairs.  On this basis, Steinzor claims street cred.  Unfortunately for this claim, the family soon moved to the burbs, and Steinzor grew up in Kenmore.

Seth Steinzor, the Middlebury Years

One of these men is the author – the Middlebury years

He has been writing poetry nonstop since his teens. His first significant educational experience was at the Quaker-oriented Farm and Wilderness Camps in Vermont, from 1964 through 1968.

In 1967 and 1968, Steinzor attended St. Michael’s Episcopalian Country Day School in Florence, Italy, living during the week at the Pensione Beatrice, 11 Via Fiume,  here he is sure he tested the patience of the wonderfully accommodating Chinaglia family many times, joining his own family in Siena on weekends.  ’Twas bliss to be alive.  He graduated from Kenmore West Senior High School in 1970, much to the relief of various assistant principals charged with student discipline and proper deportment, and from Middlebury College in 1974.

Having acquired a taste for the law in the post-graduate employ of then Public Defender William Sessions, Steinzor attended the University of Maine School of Law in hopes of becoming Atticus Finch. As he is much shorter than Gregory Peck, it did not work out.  Sessions, by the way, also is much taller than Steinzor.  Perhaps this is why Sessions now is a federal judge and Steinzor is not.

Steinzor’s own words, submitted to a Middlebury alumnae publication, carry the story forward to 1999:

I don’t have a current photo. Haven’t changed much except for the short(er) hair and the bifocals. Shower more frequently. My wife, Lisa, says I would look like a Republican if I dressed like one…

Hung around Midd for a few years after graduation. Worked as an investigator for the Addison County Public Defender. Went to law school in Maine, where it was cheap. Attended even fewer classes there than I did at Midd. Graduated anyway, in 1979. Moved to Boston to be with girlfriend. Promptly broke up with girlfriend. Proceeded to avoid putting law degree use, working instead as a bicycle courier.

In 1980, got a job as a VISTA at the Boston Indian Council, a multi-tribal Native American Organization. Lived for the next year and a half on stipend at 125% of poverty level, helping write grants, answering federal audit of the Council’s CETA program, performing what we delicately called “legislative liaison” functions, and gaining a priceless education in the urban Indian experience. One evening a week, played in a gamelan in a neighbor’s living room.

A looong spell of unemployment followed. Sister, also living in Boston, introduced me to a friend of hers named Lisa, a social work student, in January, 1983. Drove Lisa in my squeaky unheated 1968 VW squareback to see Fassbinder’s “Veronica Voss.” Despite which, by September we were living together in Burlington, Vt., where she was finishing graduate school. I stopped using drugs and started getting my life together. Got a job at UVM researching the wealth of potential donors. Amazing what you can find out. Brief mental crisis (paralyzing fear of human contact) led to several years of therapy. Worked briefly as a researcher at the Vermont Center for Independent Living.

In 1985, married Lisa. Smart move. Also, got hired by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office as an investigator looking into employment discrimination complaints. Been there ever since. In 1989, took over a Vt. Supreme Court argument for somebody who was leaving the office. I was an attorney, after all. Had so much fun with it, finally decided to work as a lawyer. Got hired as one in the Medicaid Fraud Unit in 1990. (Then-AG Amestoy, welcoming me back to the office after my first lox/second trial: “Now you’re really a lawyer.”) Returned to my first love (civil rights) in 1993. Came back to medifraud in 1998.

Along the way, had two lovely children, now ages 7 (boy) and 10 (girl). Present at father’s death from cancer in May, 1993. Still trying to figure out what I learned from that. Continue to write poetry. (Have a book, if anybody wants to publish it.) Build furniture and am learning to make bamboo fly fishing rods. Fishing closest thing to religion I have found. Haven’t found religion yet, but like Judaism in its Buddhist mode. (Huh?) Play harmonica in a country-western band. Recently wrote first “serious” music composition, a song setting for baritone voice, trombone, violin, and marimba. My sister-in-law the choreographer says it reminds her of Captain Beefheart. Go figure.

Steinzor was divorced in 2004.  He and his former wife remain friends.  His children do not appear to have discovered that they have anything major for which to forgive him, so that is working out well, too.  Along the way, a counselor introduced Steinzor to Buddhist meditation. It has helped, and he recommends it.  About the same time as the divorce occurred, Steinzor was inspired to begin writing his own version of L’Inferno.  Go figure.  Although the book has been published to riotous acclaim, yet he clings to his day job, toiling in the vineyards of the law on behalf of the State of Vermont.

4 Responses to “About the Author”

  1. Joan Price Says:

    What a great bio! You include the tidbits that we curious folks always want to know.

  2. Lise Says:

    Okay, so I introduced them! So damn me to hell already! Love the pictures. Do we win a prize if we can guess which one is Seth?

  3. Brian Says:

    noticed the Minneapolis phase; wondering how long you were there. The Coen bros latest, A Serious Man, explores the Jewish-Midwestern American experience, taking pains to accurately represent the city in 1967 (apparently the “Summer of Love” hadn’t reached the twin cities yet). Yet I noticed one chronomusical mistake – neither “Cosmo’s Factory (CCR)” nor Santana’s “Abraxas,” both referred to in conversation, were out in ’67 (both were released in 1970). So, have you, or anyone on here, (1) seen the movie?; (2) were there any other chronological mistakes?

  4. Seth Steinzor Says:

    Saw the movie – can’t say it shook my world, but I’m more a product of the Rust Belt than of the midwest, and my family was solidly secular, so it’s hard for me to relate to the kind of crisis of faith the Coen Brothers depict. You’ve got to have faith to begin with, to feel the pang of losing it. (That’s also why Dante’s Limbo is unconvincing to me.) I don’t think I set foot in a synagogue until my thirties. The “Minneapolis phase” for me was about a year.

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