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About this poet

In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.

When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, only four years after he received his master's, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as Director of the Creative Writing Program.

He is the author of Heartwood (1988), which was reissued by Orchises Press in 1998, Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991), The Late Romances (1997), Cenotaph (2000), Oracle Figures (Ausable, 2003), Reliquaries (2005), and The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (2008).

Pankey's poems have also been published in several anthologies including Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003) and The Poetry Anthology, 1912—2002 (Ivan R. Dee, 2004). His essay, "Meditative Spaces," was included in Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (Graywolf, 2007). He is the editor of This Particular Eden: The 1992 Missouri Arts Council Writers' Biennial and is the co-editor, along with Jeb Livingood, of Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar Press and Meridian).

About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."

His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

He is currently a professor of English at George Mason University, in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife and daughter.


Selected Bibliography

For the New Year (Atheneum, 1984)
Heartwood (1988)
Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991)
The Late Romances (1997)
Cenotaph (2000)
Oracle Figures (Ausable, 2003)
Reliquaries (2005)
The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (2008)

Epitaph

Eric Pankey
Beyond the traceries of the auroras,
The fires of tattered sea foam,
The ghost-terrain of submerged icebergs;
Beyond a cinder dome's black sands, 
Beyond peninsula and archipelago,
Archipelago and far-flung islands,
You have made of exile a homeland,
Voyager, and of that chosen depth, a repose.

The eel shimmers and the dogfish darts,
A dance of crisscrosses and trespasses
Through distillate glints and nacreous silts,
And the sun, like fronds of royal palm
Wind-torn, tossed, lashes upon the wake,
But no lamplight mars or bleaches your realm,
A dark of sediment, spawn, slough, and lees,
Runoff, pitch-black, from the rivers of Psalms.

From Oracle Figures by Eric Pankey. First appeared in The Kenyon Review. Copyright © 2003 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted by permission of Ausable Press. All rights reserved.

From Oracle Figures by Eric Pankey. First appeared in The Kenyon Review. Copyright © 2003 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted by permission of Ausable Press. All rights reserved.

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Eric Pankey's first collection For the New Year won the 1984 Walt Whitman Award

by this poet

poem
An arctic, oblique light—
Grave, earthward—
Roughs in a snowfield's scoured basin,

A curved pine-flecked horizon,
As if onto a province
The door of an Advent calendar

Opened—parenthetical
Whispered as an aside,
Tallies and marginalia 

Erased, yet readable still
In the sleet-lacquered gullies
And scored rock
poem
One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the 
      redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering, 
                                                         memory seen 
        through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The
poem
In the movement toward disappearance, 
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport