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About this poet

Carl Dennis was born on September 17, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended both Oberlin College and the University of Chicago before completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dennis has published twelve books of poetry, including Another Reason (Penguin, 2014); Callings (Penguin, 2010); Practical Gods (Penguin, 2001), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Meetings with Time (Penguin, 1992), among others. Dennis has also published a book of criticism, Poetry as Persuasion (University of Georgia Press, 2001).

Known for its casual, plainspoken narrative style that makes its home in the everyday life of the American middle class, Dennis’s poetry is a quiet, almost intimate, meditation on the world around him. In a review of Dennis’s poems in The Washington Post, poet Robert Pinsky wrote, “The musing mind or voice reaches its object not with a turbulent roar of rhetoric, but with the penetration of fine oil. The poems of Carl Dennis proceed to startling, sometimes even upsetting conclusions by that musing process of mind, alert and patient.”

Dennis has received several honors and distinctions, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was the recipient of the 1989 Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the 1995 Bess Hokin Prize, the 1997 J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize, and the 2000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Dennis taught at the University of Buffalo from 1966 to 2001, after which time he served as the school’s artist in residence. He also taught in the MFA program in creative writing at Warren Wilson College.

He lives in Buffalo, New York.


Selected Bibliography

Another Reason (Penguin, 2014)
Callings (Penguin, 2010)
Unknown Friends (Penguin, 2007)
New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004 (Penguin, 2004)
Practical Gods (Penguin, 2001)
Ranking the Wishes (Penguin, 1997)
Meetings with Time (Penguin, 1992)
The Outskirts of Troy (William Morrow, 1988)
The Near World (William Morrow, 1985)
Signs and Wonders (Princeton University Press, 1979)
Climbing Down (Braziller, 1976)
A House of My Own (Braziller, 1974)

Change

Carl Dennis, 1939
Just yesterday my poem lamenting the power
Of time to sweep away all trace of the beautiful
Seemed done at last, but the light this morning
Shows it to be a sketch, evidence that my vision
Cleared as I slumbered, that my sense of beauty
Grows in the night like corn or bamboo.

Maybe a poem in praise of time
Ought to be next on my agenda,
The time required for seeds to open,
For leaves to push out on tender stems.

Yesterday, the teacher didn't believe the excuse
Her student offered for missing his appointment—
A tire gone flat on the Thruway—but today
His story seems almost convincing,
Suggesting how quickly the bruise to her ego
Has begun to heal, the first small step
From the tiresome realm of insult and umbrage.

Yesterday the lover couldn't commit himself.
Today he wants to write his beloved
A check for a million dollars,
Though the time hasn't come, he admits,
For her to cash it.  
Meanwhile, though he has nothing,
Whatever he has is hers.

Copyright © 2012 by Carl Dennis. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Carl Dennis. Used with permission of the author.

Carl Dennis

Carl Dennis

Carl Dennis was born on September 17, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended both Oberlin College and the University of Chicago before completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

by this poet

poem

If a life needn’t be useful to be meaningful,
Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach
Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few,
The few, say, who view the sun as a god
And consider basking a form of worship.

As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard
poem
I guess I have to begin by admitting
I'm thankful today I don't reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport's my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I'll be returning.
And I'm thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting
poem
Today as we walk in Paris I promise to focus
More on the sights before us than on the woman
We noticed yesterday in the photograph at the print shop,
The slender brunette who looked like you
As she posed with a violin case by a horse-drawn omnibus
Near the Luxembourg Gardens. Today I won't linger long
On the