PATRICIA HAMPL was born in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1946 and still lives within blocks of her childhood neighborhood. Her father was a florist, so she grew up in an incredibly cold place surrounded by tropical abundance. She feels particularly at home amongst the Key West palms, as her father had a palm room where palms were arranged on risers "like dusty old elephants, waiting for rental for weddings and other festive occasions." She attended the University of Minnesota as a music student in piano performance, until ("like all music failures") she became an English major. Working on the student newspaper at 17 she grabbed the attention of Garrison Keillor (then 21) who hired her as associate editor for the student magazine, "Ivory Tower". Thus began her writing career.
Hampl first won recognition for A Romantic Education, her memoir about her Czech heritage which was awarded a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship in 1981. "When I look back on my life, the most amazing thing is that I somehow had the--what--good fortune, insight, leading--to go to Prague in the bleakest time of the Cold War, to experience that world that will never be again."
Her second memoir, Virgin Time, explores her Catholic upbringing and an inquiry into the contemplative life. “I went to convent girl schools and received an ‘antique education’ from French nuns which I treasure. Another world that is no more.”
In her most recent book I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, Hampl reflects on the landscape bordered by memory and imagination in a series of story-like recollections and essays. All three books were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.
Hampl has also published two collections of poetry, and her fiction, poems, reviews, essays and travel pieces have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Paris Review, New York Times Book Review, Ploughshares, Antaeus and Kenyon Review. She is the editor of Burning Bright, an anthology of sacred poetry of the West; editor as of The Houghton Mifflin Anthology of Short Fiction (1989); and co-editor with Carl Klaus of the newly established Iowa Non-Fiction Series from the University of Iowa Press. Ms. Hampl is Regents’ Professor and also McKnight Distinguished Professor at the University of Minnesota where she teaches in the MFA program of the English Department. She is also on the permanent faculty of The Prague Summer Seminars. In 1995,1996, and 1999 she was on the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers Conference to which she returns in 2000.
Ms. Hampl has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Bush Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts (twice, in poetry and prose), Ingram Merrill Foundation, and Djerassi Foundation. In 1990 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
- Woman Before an Aquarium, Poems, 1978
- Resort and Other Poems, 1983
- Spillville, 1987
- A Romantic Education (memoir), W.W. Norton, 1981
- Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life (memoir), 1992
- I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory , W.W. Norton, 1999