poem index

About this poet

Born in Massachusetts in 1939, Joan Larkin received her BA from Swarthmore College. She went on to earn her MA in English from the University of Arizona, and her MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College.

Larkin's first collection, Housework, was published by Out & Out Books in 1975. Her third book, Cold River (Painted Leaf Press, 1997), won the Lambda Literary Award. Her other collections include A Long Sound (Granite Press, 1986), Sor Juana's Love Poems/Poemas de Amor (in Spanish and English, University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), and My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose Press, 2007), for which she won the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She has also co-edited three poetry anthologies: Amazon Poetry (Out & Out Books, 1975), Lesbian Poetry (Persephone Press, 1980), and Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (St. Martin's Press, 1988).

Critics and poets alike have praised Larkin's poems: Marie Ponsot has remarked on their "probing language" (Marie Ponsot) and Gerald Stern has heralded Larkin's "overwhelming…honesty". Julie R. Enszer has described Larkin's poems as "expansive in subject matter and their location in time and place, but they are grounded in the things that make poetry strong: images, new and startling observations like the consistency of a person's ashes and the excavation of significant relationships."

Larkin is the 2011 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. In addition to the Lambda and Audre Lorde Awards, Larkin's honors include a nomination for a Publishing Triangle Award, a second Lambda Literary Award for nonfiction in 2000, and fellowships in poetry and playwriting from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Larkin has taught at Brooklyn College, Sarah Lawrence College, Goddard College, and Columbia College Chicago. She currently teaches at the MFA Program in Poetry Writing at Drew University.

The Combo

Joan Larkin
In barlight alchemized: gold pate, the bellmouth
tenor, liquor trapped in a glass. The e-flat
clarinet chases time, strings shudder,
remembering the hundred tongues. Here comes old
snakeshine, scrolls stored in the well, here comes
the sobbing chazzan. O my lucky uncle,
you've escaped the Czar's army. Thunder
is sweet. Here comes the boink, boink bossa
nova slant of light. Snow-dollars
dissolve on a satin tongue. The river
swells green, concrete trembles, and we
sweat, leaning toward mikes and wires
as the last tune burns down to embers. Ash-
whispers. We were born before we were born.

Copyright © 2010 by Joan Larkin. Used by permission of the author.

Joan Larkin

Joan Larkin

Born in Massachusetts in 1939, Joan Larkin is the 2011 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship

by this poet

poem
Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us			               

stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes 						

crammed with something soft. She had a bulb	         

of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots.       

Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder 

and fed chunks into it and forced them
poem

A four-armed flutist took me
to the blue avatar: stone-blue
monkey, whiskers silver,
broken beads silver–
paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper.
Bought for a few annas, God
kneels, looks left. Intense concentration.
His ink hands rip open his chest,
pull skin aside like a

poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.