Daniel Mark Epstein (born October 25, 1948) is an American poet, dramatist, and biographer. His poetry has been noted for its erotic and spiritual lyricism, as well as its power—in several dramatic monologues—in capturing crucial moments of American history. While he has continued to publish poetry he is more widely known for his biographies of Nat King Cole, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Bob Dylan and Abraham Lincoln, and his radio plays, "Star of Wonder," and "The Two Menorahs," which have become holiday mainstays on National Public Radio.
Daniel Mark Epstein was born in Washington D.C., the son of businessman Donald David Epstein, and Louise Tillman, a homemaker. His younger sister is the journalist Linda Stevens. Epstein grew up in West Hyattsville, Maryland, suburban Washington, and his mother's home town of Vienna on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Many of his poems, plays, and short stories are inspired by life in Dorchester County and Vienna in the mid-twentieth century. He began writing poetry when he was in grade school. Some poems he wrote in his early teens came to the attention of Elliot Coleman, the legendary founder of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Coleman invited him to Baltimore, and offered advice and encouragement. Epstein was educated in the public schools of Prince George's County and at Kenyon College where he worked with poet John Crowe Ransom, graduating with Highest Honors in English in the 1970s. He briefly attended graduate school at the University of Virginia with the support of a Woodrow Wilson and Danforth Foundation grant, but left after a semester to pursue a career as a writer.