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About this poet

Born in 1969 in Providence, Rhode Island, Timothy Donnelly holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, and an MFA from Columbia University.

Donnelly is the author of two collections of poetry, The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books, 2011) and Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit (Grove Press, 2003). His work has also been translated into German and appears in the poetry anthologies Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry, and Poet, Poems and Poetry, edited by Helen Vendler.

Donnelly's work has been widely praised. Jorie Graham has remarked that his poetry is "musically brilliant and articulate," and Richard Howard found Donnelly's first collection, "as vigorous, as fresh, and as authoritative" as the work of John Ashbery.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including those from The Paris Review, Columbia University, and the New York State Writers Institute.

Donnelly is the current poetry editor at the Boston Review. He is also a professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Driver of the Car Is Unconscious

Timothy Donnelly, 1969
Driver, please. Let's slow things down. I can't endure 
the speed you favor, here where the air's electric 
hands keep charging everything, a blur of matter fogs the window 
and my mind to rub it. Don't look now, but the vast
majority of chimpanzees on the road's soft shoulder can't 
determine: Which fascinates more, the thing per se 
or the decoration on its leaking package? How like us, they--

(The hand mistook me that arranged my being 
bound here, buckled. I have been mistaken, ripped 
from a wave of in-flight radio: wakened brutally 
is brutally awakened, plucked from the grip of 
"asleep on the slope of an open poppy." One has meant this 
torture for another, clearly. Do we welt the same, 
make similar whimper? Did he take my name? I'll take another.)

it is the decoration. By which I mean, we have a lot 
between us. You're European, and I have been to Venice
where the waters pave and they can't play tennis. 
Fair gondolier, it is my pleasure to confess: nor will you ever 
catch me in athletic dress, hunched waiting at the net 
for a ball knocked fast in my direction, hot with fervor
to knock it back to the opposing player. It just won't do. 

Driver, please. I have shared with you. I have become
a person. That's supposed to make it hard to hurt me. 
The future rises, bellows, wrinkles. I can't keep living 
in a cramped sedan, I won't keep living in a cramped sedan--
though you hold the road, I'll give you that. There are 
instances of smoke and mirror, instances of shouting fire. 
Though you hold the road, I'll give you that, there are
 
instances of "sticking to it" that I can't admire, and ours 
isn't an adhesion I ever expect to look back on 
wistfully. But that's for time to decide, not me.
"Just around the corner, there's a rainbow in the sky."--
Haven't you ever just had to believe it? Look, if it's a cup of coffee
you're after, I bet there's someplace brilliant up ahead. 
I bet there's someplace right around the bend. Ash in the eye 

and the nose and the mouth, shit in the pants 
and the mouth and the hand. Hound on the back 
of the hand and the lap, slap on the face of the hound and the ass. 
Ash in the eye and the nose and the mouth, mouth 
on the nose on the face in the pants. Hound on the back 
of the hand in the lap, slap on the face of the hound 
in the ass. Ash in the eye and the nose and the mouth and

the mouth won't stop, it comforts itself, it comforts me. 
Funny I keep on looking out the window, identifying
even as you do this. The orchids cry that yesterday were pollen 
ground in the fuzz of dead-drunk bees. I will not submit 
to being ferried that way. Driver, please. Where to now, 
Tierra del Fuego? There is no travel but the travel that concludes 
in shrieking with abandon, is there? --No. What you need 

is to remember what it felt like beforehand, that emptiness. 
Call up pictures, melodies, etc., but part of you will resist
that assistance, divide from it. Drag the edge of that memory--
yes, it's more like forgetting--across that divide, until 
something like a rabbit-hole opens inside you. Vanish into the hole.
Vanish, it is your only opportunity. It will stun you 
for another minute, but when the stunning passes, you will again

be nowhere, nothing, and even more at peace with it.

From Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit by Timothy Donnelly. Copyright © 2003 by Timothy Donnelly. Reprinted by permission of Grove/Atlantic Press. All rights reserved.

From Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit by Timothy Donnelly. Copyright © 2003 by Timothy Donnelly. Reprinted by permission of Grove/Atlantic Press. All rights reserved.

Timothy Donnelly

Timothy Donnelly

Donnelly's work has been widely praised. Jorie Graham has remarked that his poetry is "musically brilliant and articulate"

by this poet

poem
Roll back the stone from the sepulchre's mouth!
I sense disturbance deep within, as if some sorcery

had shocked the occupant's hand alive again, back
to compose a document in calligraphy so dragonish

that a single misstep made it necessary to stop
right then and there and tear the botched draft up,

begin
poem

That agreeable feeling we haven't yet been able
   to convert into words to our satisfaction

despite several conscious attempts to do so
   might prove in the end to be nothing

more than satisfaction itself, an advanced
   new formula just sitting there waiting to be

poem

 

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