poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Liz Waldner was raised in rural Mississippi. She received a BA in philosophy and mathematics from St. John's College, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

She wrote for eighteen years before her first book of poems, Homing Devices, was published in 1998 by O Books. Her second book, A Point Is That Which Has No Part (University of Iowa Press, 2000), received the 2000 James Laughlin Award and the 1999 Iowa Poetry Prize.

Since then, she has published several collections of poems, most recently Play (Lightful Press, 2009); Trust (Cleveland State University Press, 2009), winner of the Poetry Center Open Competition; Saving the Appearances (Ahsahta Press, 2004); Dark Would (the missing person) (University of Georgia Press, 2002) winner of the 2002 Contemporary Poetry Series; Etym(bi)ology (Omnidawn Press, 2002); and Self and Simulacra (2001), winner of the Alice James Books Beatrice Hawley Prize.

About Waldner's work, the poet Gillian Conoley has said, "Liz Waldner is a poet of high wit, high intelligence, and great musical rigor—she may be our Postmodern Metaphysical poet plummeting deeper and deeper with each book into the questions of self, sexuality, and knowing...." And the poet and critic Stephen Burt has said, "She has become one of the most convincing and most inspiring of our poets."

Waldner's honors include grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Boomerang Foundation, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Money for Women Fund. She has also received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Djerassi Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony.

Adjunct

Liz Waldner
The tomato plant is like a seven-story city hewn from the rock of the desert. 
It weeps.

It volunteered. I hate tomatoes and the way the plant smells
but it is alive so I let it be.

And so it towers haggard over other better December vegetables,
its top blacked by the first frost

despite my bed sheet.
Either nobody wants me

or they want me to save them and believe
I can. This seems to be history.

Or math: mantissa, L. makeweight, part of an algorithm
of little or no importance.  Sad.

It works that way.  They get me to pull myself up like a weed
via my wish to be loved.  Undone, I volunteer.

I'm forced like the bulbs on stones in a bowl
in the middle of some vast and cold expanse of perfect

polished dining room table, gloss and winter in the kind of house
I’ll never live in and no kin, no kind of house will I ever own, who

turns on the water heater only when I want a bath which is seldom since
in the kitchen where I live when not asleep it is 58 degrees

which is what I can afford so I have to move again 
when I don’t have any more roots to lose and am blackened too

by Just What Happens.
                                               If only a horse would come to my door.

Warm body, wet nose, white breath curved against my face
in wet night air, I would climb its seven-story back

and press my face into its coarse horse-smell mane and holding on
be-with forever, all over the earth, in its green places

until a car hit us or old age or a broken leg at the cottonwood fallen
by the stream where not the speckled trout cold and deep

nor the shadow that startled it into sleeking but the wolf
that cast the shadow scared this horse and me and then

I would love this wolf as I could never love a car
and lie on the ground and believe the ground volunteered

itself for me and I would love the smell of the earth in my belief
the scratch of grass pressed hard to my face in my belief

and abide, remain, stay forever inside my body in my belief
where I fell to earth a refugee from a seven-story life I could
     not make green

a volunteer myself 
for its stone, its sand, or ruin.

First published in The Journal. Copyright © 2009 by Liz Waldner. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

First published in The Journal. Copyright © 2009 by Liz Waldner. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Liz Waldner

Liz Waldner

Poet Liz Waldner won the 2000 James Laughlin Award.

by this poet

poem
If I were in a book it would be the book
in which some lesser angel bemoans
the state of my soul

and is comforted for it
and is corrected for it

by some greater angel who knows
as the reader knows that it is not my soul
that suffers the indignities of ignobility: 
the inability to curb the petty smallness
of
poem
This evening, walking along the long field
My eye was drawn to a living shimmer in the sky:
Three aspens alone alive in a world of almost motionless 
Cottonwood and willow and Chinese elm trees.

The breeze that barely stirred the others
Sprang it free, spangling leaves like light on water,
An electric flutter,
poem
Ink will come.  Lamp lung
breathes light at the edge
of an idea.  The edge
an idea, also the door

of the room 
that silence opens.

The pen sighs, a lens
for the shut-in light.
Breathe me, light.
Have the idea to have me.