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About this poet

Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, on April 13, 1947, and grew up in San Diego. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied with Denise Levertov, and a master's degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University.

She has published numerous books of poetry, including Just Saying (Wesleyan University Press, 2013); Money Shot (Wesleyan University Press, 2011); Versed (Wesleyan University Press, 2009), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010; Next Life (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), selected by the New York Times as one of the most notable books of 2007; Up to Speed (Wesleyan University Press, 2004), a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Poetry; Veil: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award; The Pretext (Green Integer, 2001); Made To Seem (Sun & Moon Press, 1995); and The Invention of Hunger (Tuumba Press, 1979).

Part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast, her work has been praised for syntax that borders on everyday speech while grappling with questions of deception and distortion in both language and consciousness. About her poems, Robert Creeley has described “a quiet and enabling signature,” adding, “I don’t think there’s another poet writing who is so consummate in authority and yet so generous to her readers and company alike.”

In the preface to her selected poems, Veil, Ron Silliman describes her work as: "the literature of the anti-lyric, those poems that at first glance appear contained and perhaps even simple, but which upon the slightest examination rapidly provoke a sort of vertigo effect as element after element begins to spin wildly toward more radical...possibilities."

Armantrout's poetry has been widely anthologized, appearing in Language Poetries, (New Directions), In The American Tree, (National Poetry Foundation), Postmodern American Poetry (W.W. Norton), Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 2 (University of California Press), American Women Poets of the 21st Century (Wesleyan University Press), and several editions of Best American Poetry. She is also the author of a prose memoir, True, which was published by Atelos in 1998.

She has taught writing for almost twenty years at the University of California, San Diego.

Chirality

Rae Armantrout, 1947
If I didn't need 
to do anything,
would I?

Would I oscillate
in two
or three dimensions?

Would I summon
a beholder

and change chirality
for "him"?

A massless particle
passes through the void
with no resistance.

Ask what it means
to pass through the void.

Ask how it differs
from not passing.

Copyright © 2012 by Rae Armantrout. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Rae Armantrout. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, in 1947, and grew up

by this poet

poem
Lie

1

I lay down
the acidification
of the ocean
with a sly smile.

Unstoppable
beats fiery impact
every time.

*

But the sweet yellow
shoulders of the road—

the up and up
into same blossom.

I'd like to hold these
in

poem
What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words such as
   "scumble," "pinky,"

or "extrapolate?"  

What if I maneuvered conversation in the hope that others would
   pronounce these words?  

Perhaps the excitement would come from the way the other person
   touched them lightly and carelessly with his
poem
The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

          •

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

          •

The way a lost 
word

will come back
unbidden.

You're not interested
in it now,