Photograph by Adrianne Mathiowetz

DAN ALTER lived, by age 17, in nine houses on both coasts and the middle of the United States, which he had traversed a dozen times. He then began crossing the ocean, to stay months and years variously in Israel’s desert, coastal plain and mountain city.  For over two decades he has been settled back in the East Bay Area of California.

As a worker too Alter has moved between worlds. He has cut down banana trees with a machete and delivered laundry with a tractor; unloaded salmon on a dock in Alaska and salvaged bicycles for a guitar shop. He has led teens through the hills of the Galilee, tutored them in Hebrew and Torah chanting, and taught folktales from the Talmud. For the last eighteen years he has worked as a union electrician, building hospitals, bridges and many floors of high-rises. His writing can be understood as a spanning of these many worlds and distances. 

Alter has published poems widely in journals including Field, Fourteen Hills, Pank, and Zyzzyva.. He has been a fellow of the Arad Arts Project, and a finalist for the Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience. He is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and holds MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California. He lives in Berkeley with his wife and daughter.