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About this poet

Mark Jarman was born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, on June 5, 1952. He earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1974 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1976. He has published numerous collections of poetry, including Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011); Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007); To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004); Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000); Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997), which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Iris (Story Line Press, 1992); The Black Riviera (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which won the 1991 Poets' Prize; Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985); The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981); and North Sea (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1978).

Jarman served as Elector for the American Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine form 2009-2012. During the 1980s, he and Robert McDowell founded, edited, and published the Reaper, a magazine that helped established the movements of New Narrative and New Formalism. Selections from the magazine were published in book form as the Reaper Essays (Story Line Press, 1996). Jarman has published two collections of essays: Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002) and the Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001). He is also coeditor with David Mason of Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (Story Line Press, 1996).

The poet Edward Hirsch described Jarman's poetry as "God-haunted. [Jarman] writes as an unorthodox but essentially Christian poet who embraces paradox and treats contradiction, to use Simone Weil's phrase, as a lever for transcendence."

Jarman's awards include a Joseph Henry Jackson Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2011, he received the Balcones Poetry Prize for Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, the soprano Amy Jarman.




Bibliography

Poetry

Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011)
Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007)
To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004)
Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000)
Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997)
Iris (Story Line Press, 1992)
The Black Riviera (Story Line Press, 1990)
Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985)
The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981)
North Sea (Cleveland State University Press, 1978)

Prose

Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
The Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001)
Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, coedited with David Mason (Story Line Press, 1996)
The Reaper Essays, coedited with Robert McDowell (Story Line Press, 1996)


Dispatches from Devereux Slough

Mark Jarman, 1952
Black Phoebe

Highwayman of the air, coal-headed, darting
Plunderer of gnat hordes, lasso with beak –

"Surely, that fellow creature on the wing,"
The phoebe thinks, "should fly like this."

                     And loops
His flight path in a wiry noose, takes wing
Like a cast line and hits the living fly,

Ripping it from the fluid of its life.


Devereux Lagoon

Shiners leap ahead of diving cormorants
And killdeer cry, alarming one another.
In an egret's beak, the catch flashes like shook foil.

How well these field glasses scope out the place—
A kestrel sky, serrations of the Madres,
And sand flats darkened by a rare rain shower.

Such an odd peace, as creatures stalk each other


Dispatch from Devereux Slough
               Fall, 2008
The gulls have no idea.
The distant bark of sea lions gives nothing away.
The white-tailed kite flutters and hunts.
The pelicans perform their sloppy angling.
The ironbark eucalyptus dwells in ignorance and beauty.
And the night herons brood in their heronry like yoga masters, each balanced on a twig.
The world has changed. The news will take some time to get here.


From the Garden Toad

A cri de coeur of mud, a heartfelt groan
Of deep damp, mother rainfall and her sire;

A plea from underground, from drooping shade,
From memories of sunlight and clear water;

Reproach of an old grandparent half-forgotten –

All in that voice, announcing a desire
To have sex under the giant philodendron.


Marine Layer

No one is out tonight, but just in case,
A tubaphone's deep echo, like a seine net,
Sweeps under darkness and pulls darkness in
The way a trellis shadow cages light.

To hear the foghorn is to hear your childhood,
If you were lucky to have lived near ocean,
Moving again into your neighborhood.


Overcast on Ellwood Mesa

Hawks like it. Wings cast no shadow, hovering,

And white crowned sparrows are easier to pick out
Among the foxtails, scurrying like mice.

Under the gray cloud cover, blue birds course
Like running water through the fennel stalks,

And the shrike, color of the sky, keeps watch
From the barbed wire of the startling green golf course.


September Song

Those phosphorescent shoulders of the night surf
Passing beneath the pier,
                     as we looked down,
Were an agitation in the falling water
Of creatures set to glowing,
                     all together,
By sudden apprehension, which we perceived
As incandescent wonder,
                     our eyes feasting,
Our hearts filled by the light of crashing down.


Shorebreak, 3 a.m.

At night the swell and crash, the swell and crash,
As waves rush forward, peak, and then collapse
Gasping and giving up a ghost of spray,
Sounds from a distance like a low-voiced hush.

Awake, alone, at the right hour to hear it,
That hush, for all the sleeplessness behind it,
Can lead one, walking wounded, back to sleep.


Sundowner

Waking at nightfall like the other monsters,
The vampire and the moonstruck wolfman, arson
Is hardly required to set your body burning,

Thirsting for dryness, dry brush, stucco houses.

Flame wind, ember wind, wind of moonlit smoke,
Rolling a fog of ash downhill to sea,

The sun's down is the harsh fur of your burning.


Surgeons

The egret is more patient than any watcher
And lances its incision when its stillness
Has made one look away.
                     Its anesthetic
Is stillness, and it numbs the water's skin.

The pelican takes a hatchet to the water,
The egret plies a scalpel.
                        They extract fish,
But one by smash and gulp, and one by stillness.


The Crystal Ship
       Sands Beach, Goleta

The famous rock star thought up his famous rock song
While gazing out at the oil derrick offshore.

Lit up at night it might look, to stoned eyes,
Like a faceted galleon perfect for a song.

Tonight, as sunset gives off its green flash,
The derrick has that look.
                     And so does the oil barge
Docked to it, dead black, filling up with cargo.


To a Dead Sea Lion at Sands Beach

You had returned from dry land back to water,
Preferring it, and welcomed the new limbs,
Webbed to conceal your toe and finger bones.

You rolled along the surf, all memory
Of other motion swept back in your wake,
And ended here, among fly-buzzing kelp.

Sleek swimmer drowned,
            and with your unwebbed bones.


Heaven

When we are reunited after death,
The owls will call among the eucalyptus,
The white tailed kite will arc across the mesa,
And sunset cast orange light from the Pacific
Against the golden bush and eucalyptus
Where flowers and fruit and seeds appear all seasons
And our paired silhouettes are waiting for us.

From Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Jarman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Jarman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman

Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry.

by this poet

poem
In Ball's Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses
poem

Sick as it approaches, sick as it departs.
In fall the hulks of burned out houses stand unrazed.
In winter bearded with fire truck ice they stand unrazed.
The ice cream maker, the piano tuner, the ceramist and tile engraver,—
The belovèd craftsmen turn up killed at their work places.
And

poem
Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed 
flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets 
across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first