History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Bruce J. "Jeff" Poniewaz


September 28, 1946
December 13, 2014
Primary Involvements:






Bruce J. Poniewaz, commonly known as "Jeff Poniewaz”, was born September 28, 1946, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. His obituary read as follows:

    Bruce J. “Jeff” Poniewaz of Riverwest, passed away December 13 age 68 from pneumonia after surviving 9 years with stage-4 kidney/lung cancer with a 6-month-to-live prognosis. Born September 28, 1946, Jeff was a former Poet Laureate of Milwaukee and devoted his life to poetry and eco-activism. Author of Dolphin Learning in the Milky Way, a classic of compelling eco-poems which won a PEN Discovery Award and Ginsberg called “impassioned prescient ecological Whitmanesque/Thoreauvian verve & wit.”

    Jeff taught Lit of Eco Vision at UWM for 20 years and in 1997 the MSO and Chorus performed the special “Song of the Rainforest” Concert he brainstormed to raise awareness of the Rainforest. In 2000 he was awarded an Earth Guardian Award at Milwaukee’s Earth Day Celebration. His work appeared in over 70 anthologies including Earth Prayers; Prayers for a 1000 Years; The Soul Unearthed; Burning the Midnight Oil and Gathering Place of the Waters: 30 Milwaukee Poets. In 1988 he founded the Earth Poets & Musicians Group which performed yearly here for 27 years. As Poet Laureate he created an event honoring the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore in which Indian musicians and dancers participated. Loving partner of former Milwaukee Poet Laureate Antler for almost 50 years. They met as teenage boys at UWM.

    Jeff backpacked and canoed in wilderness areas with Antler in his younger years and spent many a night around the campfire under the stars. Thanks for being my pal O Jeff!

    Memorial visitation was at 11:00 AM, followed by sharing of memories at 1:00 PM on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at the Feerick Funeral Home, 2025 E. Capitol Dr., Shorewood WI. Grave finder

As mentioned in his obituary, 'Jeff' was a life-long friend of his compatriot of the pen, Antler (Brad Burdick). Together they made a pact and Jeff vowed to dedicate his life to poetry. He didn’t renege on his word. His work was praised by Allen Ginsberg for its “impassioned prescient ecological Whitmanesque/Thoreauvian verve and wit.”

Poniewaz contributed to numerous books and collections, including several all-gay theme publications which include his work.

According to the UWM Report of June 2005: "Jeff Poniewaz and UWM Distinguished Alumnus Antler presented 'Calamus Spirit' at the conference celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that was held March 31-April 2 on the campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. They will be conducting a weeklong celebration of Leaves of Grass July 31-Aug. 6 at The Clearing, a nature refuge near the tip of Door County. On April 26, Poniewaz and Antler presented 'Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman as Nature Mystics' at Club Timbuktu in Milwaukee as part of the ongoing monthly Rumi-Hafiz Mystic Poetry series there."


Jeff with Allen Ginsberg

Credits: Obituary and photos contributed by Allan D., a friend from the 1960's.
Initial page creation by Don Schwamb;
Web site concept, design and content by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: November-2021.

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