Biography of Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman (born October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois) is an American author, poet, and naturalist known best for her work A Natural History of the Senses. Her writing style combines poetry, colloquial history, and popular science. She has taught at various universities, including Columbia and Cornell.
Diane Ackerman lived in Waukegan, Illinois until she was 8, when her family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and an M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1978, where her dissertation advisor was Carl Sagan. Over the years she taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, and other colleges.
She has been married to novelist Paul West since 1970, whose stroke in 2006, became the basis of her book, One Hundred Names for Love (2011). She currently lives in New York state.
A collection of her manuscripts, writings and papers (the Diane Ackerman Papers, 1971-1997—Collection No. 6299) is housed at the Cornell University Library.
Ackerman's book A Natural History of the Senses inspired the five-part Nova miniseries Mystery of the Senses, which she hosted. In 2008 she won the Orion Book Award for The Zookeeper's Wife.
Diane Ackerman Poems
In the name of the daybreak and the eyelids of morning and the wayfaring moon and the night when it departs,
Letter to Dr. B—
I have found you among the texts (but not the textures) of your life, in the library of your cunning, where the abstracts of forty papers open, one by one, like small windows partly sealed by terminology's lacquer. They reveal you both aloof and enthralled, a restless mind of intersecting planes. How can I resist the paper "Artist and Analyst"? Yet I do, thinking it best to stay within the frame we've chosen, using the palette we invent, creating a mosaic in motion. Whenever I set a shard in place, the mosaic evolves, blurs a moment, then a new scene refines, throwing past into relief, drawing present into mind. So I will sacrifice my yen to know the what and whim of you. Though my curiosity is swelling like a Magellanic Cloud filled with a luminous starfield of questions, I'll sacrifice them on the altar of our ineffable cause. A padded altar. A cause quilted with passion, and insight whose razors cut clean as thrill. A sacrifice intoxicating as any pill.
In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,
I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,