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About this poet

Alicia Suskin Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is the author of more than 10 collections of poetry, including At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994) and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (1986).

About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates has said, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."

She is Professor Emerita of the English Department, Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University Low-Residency Poetry MFA Program.

Demeter to Persephone

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, 1937
I watched you walking up out of that hole

All day it had been raining
in that field in Southern Italy

rain beating down making puddles in the mud
hissing down on rocks from a sky enraged

I waited and was patient
finally you emerged and were immediately soaked

you stared at me without love in your large eyes
that were filled with black sex and white powder

but this is what I expected when I embraced you
Your firm little breasts against my amplitude

Get in the car I said
and then it was spring

From The Book of Seventy. Copyright © 2009 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From The Book of Seventy. Copyright © 2009 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1937, Alicia Suskin Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

by this poet

poem
        —for Elizabeth Bishop

Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,

Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all
poem
I am not lyric any more
I will not play the harp
for your pleasure

I will not make a joyful
noise to you, neither
will I lament

for I know you drink 
lamentation, too,
like wine

so I dully repeat
you hurt me
I hate you

I pull my eyes away from the hills
I will not kill for you
I will never love you again
poem
But it's really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters