George Economou was born on September 24, 1934, in Great Falls, Montana, to Amelia Ananiadis Economou and Demetrios George Economou, a businessman and rancher, both of whom emigrated to the United States from Greece. After primary and secondary school education in Great Falls, he attended Colgate University, where he majored in English and graduated cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1956. He earned an M.A. with High Honors in English Literature at Columbia University in 1957 and a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature in 1967, specializing in Old and Middle English and continental literature. He taught for 41 years at Wagner College (1958–60), the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University (1961–83, as Department Chair, 1982–83), and at the University of Oklahoma (1983–2000), where he served as Chair of the Department of English (1983–1990) and Director of Creative Writing (1990–2000). He was also invited to teach as Visiting Professor at Hunter College, CUNY (1967–68, 1972) and at Columbia University (1971, 1981–82). He served for twenty years as the Field Editor of Old and Middle English Literature for the Twayne English Authors series and on the PMLA Advisory Committee (1986–90) as well as on numerous scholarly and professional advisory boards and committees. He was one of five founding editors of The Chelsea Review (1957–60) and co-founding editor of Trobar and Trobar Books (1960–64) with Robert Kelly.
He has published fourteen books of poetry and translations and three books of scholarly criticism, as well as over a hundred articles, essays, and book review, and has lectured and given poetry readings at many universities and literary venues throughout the United States and abroad. Numerous of his poems have been translated into Greek, French, Spanish, and Ukrainian. In addition to a research grant in 1975 from The American Council of Learned Societies, he has been named twice as Fellow in Poetry by The National Endowment for the Arts (1988 and 1999), as New York State CAPS Fellow in Poetry (1976–77) and Rockefeller Bellagio Fellow in Residence (May–June, 1993). His primary archive and papers are held in The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, with smaller collections in the libraries of the Universiity of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Princeton University. He and poet and playwright Rochelle Owens were married on June 17, 1962, in Great Falls, Montana. They live in Philadelphia and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
Photo credits: Lisa Askins (top), Andrea Augé (right), Lisa Askins (center), Susan Smith Nash (right), George Economou (bottom).