Born in Seattle in 1941, Washington, Carter Ratcliff grew up in Michigan and Ohio. In 1963, he earned a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago. By 1967, he had settled in New York. His books on art include John Singer Sargent (Abbeville Press, 1982); Robert Longo (Rizzoli, 1985); The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1996); and Andy Warhol: Portraits (Phaidon Press, 2007).
Nelly Sachs was born into a secular Jewish family in Berlin. She conceived the ambition to become a writer as a young woman, but her early publications attracted hardly any attention. After the rise to power of Hitler, she witnessed the terrible fate of her fellow Jews. Only the intervention of the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlof enabled her to leave for Stockholm and escape being sent to a concentration camp. In exile, as she tried to come to terms with the traumatic events of the recent past, she developed the unique poetic idiom for which she is famous. Individual experience hardly seems to exist at all in her poetry, as personal life blends into the mythic story of humanity, especially of her Jewish ancestors. Hans Magnus Enzensberger has written, "The oeuvre of Nelly Sachs is great and mysterious, two attributes that literary criticism has few occasions to apply to poetry these days."