Born November 4, 1953, in Norfolk, Virginia, Richard Katrovas, the oldest of five children, spent his early years in cars and motels living on the highways of America while his father, a petty thief and conman, eluded state and federal authorities. Katrovas’s father was eventually caught, but upon being released on probation from federal prison reverted to his criminal ways, and was caught and incarcerated again. During his father’s prison terms, Katrovas and his mother and siblings lived on welfare in public housing projects. Katrovas was adopted by relatives in his early teens, and lived with them for three years in Sasebo, Japan, where he earned a second-degree black belt in Shobukan Okinawa-te Karate. He graduated from high school in Coronado, California, and attended San Diego State University (B.A., English, 1977). He was then a Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, attended the MFA program at the University of Arkansas, and finished his graduate work in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, 1983). Between 1970 and 1983, Katrovas taught karate and worked in numerous restaurants in San Diego, then New Orleans. On a Fulbright fellowship, Katrovas was in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in the months preceding the Velvet Revolution, and subsequently witnessed that event.
The recipient of numerous grants and awards, Katrovas is the founding director of the Prague Summer Program (founded in 1993, it is now an LLC that Katrovas and his family own), and is the author of eight books of poetry, Green Dragons (winner of the Wesleyan University Press New Poets Series), Snug Harbor, The Public Mirror, The Book of Complaints, Dithyrambs, Prague Winter, Scorpio Rising: Selected Poems, Swastika into Lotus; two books of short stories, Prague USA, and The Great Czech Navy; three memoirs, The Years of Smashing Bricks, The Republic of Burma Shave, and Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father; and a novel, Mystic Pig. As guest editor of a special double issue of the New Orleans Review, he edited, and participated in much of the translation of, the first representative anthology of contemporary Czech poetry, Ten Years After the Velvet Revolution. His novel Confessions of a Waiter won the 2018 William Faulkner-William Wisdom competition.
Richard Katrovas has three daughters, Ema, Anna, and Ella. He and his family live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, New Orleans, and Prague. Katrovas taught for twenty years at the University of New Orleans and has been a professor of English at Western Michigan University since 2002.