An American poet and fiction writer, he is known for such works as Blacksnake at the Family Reunion (2012) and The Story of a Million Years (1999). His poetry collections include Stopping by Home (1988) and Summer Lake (1999).
He served in the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Later, he taught creative writing at both the University of Vermont and Middlebury College.
He received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and published his essays, stories, and poems in Esquire, The New Yorker, and other prominent magazines.
Born in Wythe County, Virginia, he is sometimes considered an Appalachian writer.
He and Mary McCarthy both contributed to Harper's Magazine.