RECENT POEMS by Brendan Galvin

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Brendan Galvin is the author of seventeen collections of poems.The Air’s Accomplices, a collection of new poems, is available from LSU Press (2015). Habitat: New and Selected Poems 1965-2005 (LSU Press) was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Ocean Effects appeared in fall, 2007. His translation of Sophocles’ Women of Trachis appeared in the Penn Greek Drama Series in 1998. Whirl Is King appeared from LSU Press in 2008. His crime novel, Wash-a-shores, is available on Amazon Kindle.

His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, the Sotheby Prize of the Arvon Foundation (England), the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Poetry’s Levinson Prize, as well as the first OB Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum, the Sewanee Review’s Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry, and the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah.

He has been Wyndham Robertson Visiting Writer in Residence in the MA program at Hollins University, Coal Royalty Distinguished Writer in Residence in the MFA program at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, visiting writer at Connecticut College, and Whichard chairholder in the Humanities at East Carolina University.

PO Box 383 , Truro, MA 02666
Widower, two adult children

email: magnuscape@gmail.com

Judges’ Citation, National Book Awards Finalist, 2005:

Over the past four decades, in an era deeply suspicious of the relationship between language and external reality, Brendan Galvin has been quietly reminding us that the best poetry can deepen our understanding of the natural world and of each other. “You are tired of living when you’re tired of us,” he imagines a field of potatoes saying in one poem. And, indeed, if the earthy and local poems of this volume could speak in one voice, they would be making the same claim to past and future readers.I

NY Times Book Review:

Few living poets are as memorable in their descriptions of the goings-on in the non-man-manufactured world.

Atlantic Monthly:

Galvin has an exciting gift for finding the unexpected word that ptoves miraculously perfect in its setting.

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THIS TIME

Now you must learn to write your name
as in first grade, but other-handed,
and not with a pen like a dybbuk’s finger
and ink as if from a mudhole in the desk,
not with that rippy gray school paper
this time. If the rolls of practice cursive
recall barbed wire, this time
it’s not that kind of war. You’ve come
tottering out of a stroke on a skinny cane,
not fast but accurate, learning to walk
again, vestigial babytalk in your
“Don’t overload my washington machine,”
and “Pass me that cross hop bun.” When you
were a little girl coming home down
the hill one day from school, an American
wind snatched you. Remember how you
cried out Unten gesetzt mir! until it
relented and set you down further along
the sidewalk? You must fight this
fight, too. You will not have to escape
over the Alps into Italy this time.

 

 

YOU WERE A LEAF CLUMP IN THE CHERRY TREE,

yellowing early, caught in the netting
I swaddled the branches with
to keep birds like you off. How long
had you hung there, hours, a day,
upside down and silent as though
you’d given up? I must have passed
several times without seeing,
and finally, Dead I thought,
a young or female orchard oriole,
but a lift of the net started
the squalls, keeping you at it
and at the fingers of my work gloves,
your efficient bugsticker
even clamping the scissors
as I took you off the tree, wrapped
in a reticule of netting. It was almost
surgical, the way I worked
around the breast, and the tense feet
gripping strands, the closest
in years I’ve come to that dogfish
and cat I dissected in labs
when I intended to cure cancer.
Between panics you seemed
to understand I was freeing you,
trying to do no harm, snipping away
the layers that involved you, trying
to unbind those wings, your crucial
difference, but you dropped too soon
free-footed to the deck and under,
unreachable with a grandchild’s
plastic shovel, another good intention
gone quiet again and out of sight
as others you couldn’t join
flashed pumpkin and black, passing
through the afternoon for the south.

AN EVEL KNIEVEL ELEGY

We have all felt our parachutes
malfunctioning at a job interview
or cocktail party, with bystanders
reading the freefall on our faces,
and some of us have imagined
how it must have felt for you
above the Snake River Canyon
or the fountains outside Caesar’s
Palace, though a mental bungee
reversed our flops before we were
converted to sacks of poker chips and spent
a month or more in a coma. You were
our star-spangled Icarus, Evel,
while we dressed off the rack
for working lives among the common
asps and vipers, never jumping
the rattlers in what you and
the networks considered a sport.
Stunts, Evel. We loved their heights
and distances from our gray quotidian
so much we bought the kids three
hundred million dollars worth
of your wheels and getups. You were
our airborne Elvis, and rode
your rocket-powered bike through fire.
Whch we admired, though some,
annealing or annulled, knew that
they stand in fire all their lives,
and turned away, and didn’t applaud,
and would not suffer the loss
of your departure.

WALKING WILL SOLVE IT

Or so the Romans prescribed.
A half-mile down the Egg Island flats
the fridge can’t mumble
its imprecations at me, the bills, taxes
and toxins seem to be sloughing off,
all the home stuff that makes me feel
I’m a man up there on a steel span
over the river, painting each beam
with a small brush, doing it all alone.

Now I’m humming, recalling the lyrics
of old tunes I didn’t know I knew. I think of
Stevens largely pontificating to himself
all the way down Farmington Avenue
to the office, then Wordsworth and Coleridge
on gravel and scrubby paths, Frost
out walking the dark. With two dogs
I never walk alone, for they have things
to show me. Lefty may pick up a squid
so recently dead it is still that purply
fresh squid color, or a green crab
will be waving its wrenches around
in Magnus’s mandibles so I have to
talk him into dropping it.

Where tall spartina obscures
the marsh channels that drain and fill
with the tides, I have dreamed two men
walking on water for an instant, before their barge
rounded the bend and there were four, one poling,
one hanging onto the tiller, and two rowing,
seated in the bow before piled hay
and the haying machine. Ghosts of the Portuguese
farmers, and the dream boat for old age,
the Charon update. A windless, fetorless heat
like sepia filled the dream’s air, and swimming
behind those oarsmen a huge head like a gray seal’s–
the old horse whose name I’m somehow
certain is Joseph, out of harness, a halo of greenflies
and mosquitoes dissolving around his ears.

Back of the Egg Island dunes once,
a woman’s footprints, toes flawless, mild arch,
heel slender, going side-by-side with a set of paws
whose arrowhead shape and flat heel
meant coyote. Too early for bare feet,
she was pushing the season. Then a blue heron’s
tracks appeared beside hers, clean as
a Norse mapmaker’s sign for forest. Girl with Heron,
Girl and Coyote, as in a myth like the Boy and
the Dolphin. They walked all the way to the tideline,
but if reason kicks in it will say she was following
the previous meanders as I was following hers,
that I could never wake early enough
to watch her re-enter the sea.

But this morning, stranded in a pool
the river deposited, a small fish flashing back and forth
as though one of those times that puddle
would lead to the river’s freedom–
it brought me back to the man on the bridge,
who sooner or later has to begin again
where he started.

BOOKS OF POETRY

The Air’s Accomplices (Louisiana State University Press, 2015)

Whirl Is King: Poems from a Life List (Louisiana State University Press, 2008)
Ocean Effects (Louisiana State University Press, 2007).
Habitat: New and Selected Poems 1965-2005 (Louisiana State University
Press, 2005). Finalist, National Book Award; Honor Book, Massachusetts Book
Award in Poetry.
Place Keepers (Louisiana State University Press, 2003)
The Strength of a Named Thing (Louisiana State University Press, 1999).
Finalist’s Citation: PEN New England/ LL Winship Award.
Hotel Malabar (University of Iowa Press, 1998). Awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize
for 1997.
Sky and Island Light (Louisiana State University Press, 1997).
Saints in their Ox-Hide Boat (LSU Press, 1992). American Library Assn- Choice
Outstanding Academic Book, 1993.
Early Returns (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1992).
Great Blue: New and Selected Poems (University of Illinois Press, 1990).
Wampanoag Traveler (LSU Press, 1989).
Seals in the Inner Harbor (Carnegie Mellon UP, 1986).
Winter Oysters (University of Georgia Press, 1983). Short-listed for the Pulitzer
Prize.
Atlantic Flyway (U of Georgia Press, 1980).
The Minutes No One Owns (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977).
No Time for Good Reasons (U of Pittsburgh Press, 1974).

POETRY CHAPBOOKS
Islands (Druid City Press, 1993), limited edition, hand-printed on handmade
paper at Center for Book Arts, U of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Raising Irish Walls
(Ampersand Press, 1989); A Birder’s Dozen (Ampersand, 1984); The Salt Farm
(Fiddlehead Books, 1972); The Narrow Land (Northeastern University Press,
1971).

CRITICAL STUDY ON:
Outer Life: The Poetry of Brendan Galvin, edited by Martha Christina
(Ampersand Press, 1991). Essays on the poetry by George Garrett, Neal
Bowers, Peter Makuck, Philip Jason and Thomas Reiter, 40 poems and an
essay by Brendan Galvin, complete bibliography to 1990, interview with Galvin.

FILMS
Wrote narration for “Massachusetts Story,” a one-hour documentary on offshore
oil drilling on Georges Bank. Televised; shown at Museum of Modern Art, New
York; First Prize Documentary, New England Film Festival; three Emmy
nominations (1977-78).
Poem, “Today You Will Meet the Love of Your Life,” produced as poetry video by
Connecticut Public Television, aired on CPTV channels (1987-88).

POEMS IN PERIODICALS
Over 800 appearances in magazines, textbooks and anthologies: THE NEW
YORKER, POETRY, ATLANTIC, HARPER’S, NEW REPUBLIC, NATION,
KENYON REVIEW, PARIS REVIEW, GEORGIA REVIEW, GETTYSBURG
REVIEW, SEWANEE REVIEW, SOUTHERN REVIEW, SHENANDOAH, TRIQUARTERLY,
others.

POEMS IN ANTHOLOGIES AND TEXTBOOKS
Writing Poems, Creative Writer’s Handbook, The Poet’s Choice, The Forgotten
Language, Leaving the Bough, Explore Poetry, A Place Apart: A Cape Cod
Reader, Sutured Words, Working Classics, Vital Signs, A New Pleiade: Seven
American Poets, The Book of Irish-American Poetry, others.

Fiction: CRAZY HORSE, LAUREL REVIEW, THE FALCON. Novel: WASH-ASHORES
(Amazon ebook).

Critical Essays: GEORGIA REVIEW, PLOUGHSHARES, SHENANDOAH,
NORTHWEST REVIEW, CONCERNING POETRY, MASSACHUSETTS
STUDIES IN ENGLISH, TAR RIVER POETRY, Theodore Roethke (Harold
Bloom, editor); An Open World: Essays on Leslie Norris; Poetics: Essays on the
Art of Poetry; After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography.
Book Reviews: CHOICE, SOUTHERN REVIEW, PRAIRIE SCHOONER,
MIDWEST OUARTERLY, SEWANEE REVIEW, WASHINGTON REVIEW, TAR
RIVER POETRY, POET & CRITIC, POET LORE, SHENANDOAH, HOLLINS
CRITIC, others.

TRANSLATION
Sophocles’ Women of Trachis. Penn Greek Drama Series. U of Pennsylvania
Press, 1998.

EDUCATION
Ph.D., English (University of Massachusetts, 1970); MFA, Creative Writing
(Massachusetts, 1967); MA, English (Northeastern University, 1964); BS,
Natural Sciences (Boston College, 1960). Ph.D. Dissertation: ” ‘What the Grave
Says, The Nest Denies,’ Burkean Strategies in Theodore Roethke’s ‘Lost Son’
Poems.” Traces Kenneth Burke-Roethke friendship, provides in-depth reading
of the poems via Burke’s theories.

AWARDS
Boston College Arts Council, Alumni Arts Award, 2009; The Aiken Taylor Award
in Modern American Poetry ( the Sewanee Review) 2006; Finalist, National
Book Award, 2005; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship,
1988; O.B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1991;
Sotheby Prize of the Arvon Foundation (Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney,
judges), 1988; Charity Randall Citation, International Poetry Forum, 1994;
Levinson Prize, Poetry , 1989; National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing
Fellowships, 1988, 1974; Outstanding Alumnus, American Association of Jesuit
Colleges and Universities, 1990; Award for Excellence in the Arts and
Humanities, Boston College Alumni Association, 1988; Connecticut State
University Research Grants,1996, 1994, 1992, 1988, 1985; Connecticut
Commission on the Arts Creative Writing Grants, 1984, 1981; Artists’
Foundation Creative Writing Grant, 1978; University Graduate Fellow in English,
U of Massachusetts, 1965-68.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Whichard Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities, East Carolina
University, Fall semester, 2002. Wyndham Robertson Writer in Residence,
Hollins University, Spring semester, 1999. Coal Royalty Visiting Chairholder in
Creative Writing, University of Alabama, Spring semester, 1993. 1969-l997:
Central Connecticut State University (Emeritus, 1997, Professor, 1980; tenured,
1973). 1975-76: Visiting Writer, Connecticut College. Director, Connecticut
Writers’ Conference, 1974-82. Oklahoma Arts Institute, Fall, 1997; Martha’s
Vineyard Writers’ Workshop, Summer, 1986. Poet-in-Residence, Western
Carolina University, April, 1990. Wesleyan University Writers’ Conference,
1977, 1978. Various poetry-in-the-schools projects, 1977-87. Asst. Prof. of
English, Slippery Rock State College, 1968-69. Teaching Fellow and Instructor
in English, Northeastern University, 1963-65.

SELECTED COURSES
Creative Writing (Poetry, Fiction, tutorials, graduate courses), Modern Poetry,
Modern Drama, Contemporary Literature, Modern Non-English Poetry (in
translation), Americans and the Environment, American Lit surveys, Remedial,
Freshman, and Advanced Composition, Intro to Poetry, Intro to Literature.
Thesis advising, advisor to student publications, Graduate Studies Committee,
Freshman-Sophomore Course Committee, Composition Committee.

MANUSCRIPT CONSULTANT
HarperCollins Publishers, Wesleyan University Press Poetry Series, Associated
Writing Programs Poetry Series, Louisiana State University Press, University of
Pittsburgh Press, University of Georgia Press, David McKay Co., Chowder
Review Chapbook Series, University of Missouri Press, University of Virginia
Press, Academy of American Poets Prize–U of Arkansas (judge), Emerson
College (judge): Ascent Poetry Prize, Connecticut Commission on the Arts
panels, others.

SELECTED READINGS, LECTURES, WRITING WORKSHOPS
Lamont Poetry Library, Harvard; Yale U;International Poetry Forum, Pittsburgh;
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC; Wesleyan U; Boston College;
College of the Holy Cross; U of Maryland; US Naval Academy; Marshall U;
Providence College; Trinity College; U of Tulsa; East Carolina U; U of Alabama;
U of Georgia; U of Michigan; Colby College; Hollins College; Connecticut
College; Carnegie Mellon U; U of Virginia; Iowa State U; Kansas State U; U of
Illinois; Mississippi State U; Auburn U, others.

ONLINE