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December 10, 1985From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

On Nivember 21, 1949, Liam Rector was born in Washington, D.C. He received an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

His books of poems include The Executive Director of the Fallen World (University of Chicago Press, 2006), American Prodigal (1994) and The Sorrow of Architecture (1984).

His reviews and essays appeared in magazines and books that include American Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Hudson Review, Bostonia, The Oxford Companion to Literature, and Contemporary Poets.

"Liam Rector is one of the most linguistically liquid and gifted poets of his generation," said poet Lucie Brock-Broido. "His is the oddest and most hallucinatory romance with Romance in American letters."

Rector's honors include fellowships in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he received the Friend to Writers Award from PEN New England. He served as poetry editor of Harvard Magazine and as associate editor of Harvard Review and Agni.

Rector edited The Day I Was Older: On the Poetry of Donald Hall (1989), and co-edited with Tree Swenson On the Poetry of Frank Bidart: Fastening the Voice to the Page (University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Rector taught at Columbia University, The New School, Emerson College, George Mason University, and elsewhere. He founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and administered literary programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets.

Liam Rector died on August 15, 2007.

This City

Liam Rector, 1949 - 2007
for Bertolt Brecht

This apartment with no furniture,
where no one puts anything up,
where everyone schemes to get out.

This mess, to the right and the left of me,
that equation of garbage wherein matter moves its way,
the magazine sector in glanced-at demise.

This price, and that mind, and nothing to say but "violent."
Nothing but violence in the expensive mind.
Moving from the window towards morning.

These characters at the bottom, so generous
and pathetic. Those abstract things at the top,
so mean, precise and arresting.

That god-abandoned theatre with its three-legged dog.
Staying alone to learn the lesson, the lesson being
DO NOT SPEND NIGHTS ALONE FOR AWHILE.

This program, these organizations, these gatherings
and awards. This sweat that drags it down.
These pagans with large teeth and good eyes.

The profit sector giving us images, the nonprofit
passing out handbills, and worried.
The mind that grabs after information.

The dance changed every week so no one masters
any one dance. Carrying around the little guns
and knives, the bars owned by a friend.

The same economy that binds them together
pulls them apart. The little thems, staring
into the canyon. The all of us.

A sense of proportion, in this dense heat,
hearing the tune of romance behind the psychotic.
The profit sector giving us images.

Elegance, learning, poverty and crime.
Those who smell power must dog these.
The untuning of cement into many moods.

In audacity, in hilarity, this city
plays an unbelievable organ.
How afternoon goes like the movies.

From The Sorrow of Architecture by Liam Rector. Published by Dragon Gate, Inc. Copyright © 1984 by Liam Rector. Appears with permission.

From The Sorrow of Architecture by Liam Rector. Published by Dragon Gate, Inc. Copyright © 1984 by Liam Rector. Appears with permission.

Liam Rector

The author of three books of poetry, Liam Rector founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College

by this poet

poem

My mother, poised around behavior, would say
You are sitting there reading and smoking, Hans,
And this would describe for her, to her utter

Satisfaction, what it is you are doing.
Knowing you I guess you are stationed there
In grief, reverie, worry--your car broken

poem
I was well towards the end
Of middle-age before I
Realized I loved saying

Disgusting things but didn't
Really myself much enjoy hearing
Them. They

Go to the heart of life,
I realize (I think
Everyone recognizes this),

Since almost everyone
Can agree: Life, so
Generally disgusting.

But no one really
Wants to
poem
Dressed in an old coat I lumber
Down a street in the East Village, time itself

Whistling up my ass and looking to punish me
For all the undone business I have walked away from,

And I think I might have stayed 
In that last tower by the ocean,

The one I built with my hands and furnished
Using funds which came