poem index

January 8, 2008 The Academy Offices From the Academy of American Poets

About this poet

Ron Padgett was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 17, 1942. He began writing at the age of thirteen and started a magazine in high school called The White Dove Review with friends Dick Gallup and Joe Brainard. In its five issues, the magazine published Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), Ted Berrigan, and others.

In 1960, he moved to New York City, where he attended Columbia College and studied with Kenneth Koch and Lionel Trilling. Padgett later spent a year in Paris on a Fulbright fellowship where he studied French literature.

His first collection of poems, Bean Spasms (Kulcher Press), written with Ted Berrigan, was published in 1967. Since then he has published many books of poetry, including Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry; How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011); How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007); You Never Know (Coffee House Press, 2002); Poems I Guess I Wrote (CUZ Editions, 2001); New & Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 1995); The Big Something (The Figures, 1990); Triangles in the Afternoon (SUN, 1979); and Great Balls of Fire (Holt McDougal, 1969).

He has also published a volume of selected prose titled Blood Work (Bamberger Books, 1993), as well as translations of Blaise Cendrars' Complete Poems (University of California Press, 1992), Pierre Cabanne's Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971), and Guillaume Apollinaire's The Poet Assassinated (HarperCollins, 1968).

For his translations, Padgett has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Columbia University's Translation Center.

About Padgett's work, the poet James Tate wrote, "Ron Padgett's poems sing with absolutely true pitch. And they are human friendly. Their search for truths, both small and large, can be cause for laughter, or at least a thoughtful sigh."

Padgett was the editor-in-chief of World Poets, a three-volume reference book (Scribner, 2000). For twenty years Padgett was the publications director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2013. He lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013)
How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011)
How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007)
You Never Know (Coffee House Press, 2002)
Poems I Guess I Wrote (CUZ Editions, 2001)
New & Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 1995)
The Big Something (The Figures, 1990)
Triangles in the Afternoon (SUN, 1979)
Great Balls of Fire (Holt McDougal, 1969)
Bean Spasms, with Ted Berrigan (Kulcher Press, 1967)

Translation

Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems (University of California Press, 1992)
Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971)
Guillaume Apollinaire, The Poet Assassinated (HarperCollins, 1968)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Fairy Tale

Ron Padgett, 1942
The little elf is dressed in a floppy cap
and he has a big rosy nose and flaring white eyebrows
with short legs and a jaunty step, though sometimes
he glides across an invisible pond with a bonfire glow on his cheeks:
it is northern Europe in the nineteenth century and people 
are strolling around Copenhagen in the late afternoon,
mostly townspeople on their way somewhere, 
perhaps to an early collation of smoked fish, rye bread, and cheese,
washed down with a dark beer: ha ha, I have eaten this excellent meal
and now I will smoke a little bit and sit back and stare down 
at the golden gleam of my watch fob against the coarse dark wool of my vest,
and I will smile with a hideous contentment, because I am an evil man, 
and tonight I will do something evil in this city!

From You Never Know by Ron Padgett. Copyright © 2001 by Ron Padgett. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 17, 1942, Ron Padgett was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2008

by this poet

poem
When my mother said Let’s go down to the Rialto
it never occurred to me that the name Rialto 

was odd or from anywhere else or meant anything
other than Rialto the theatre in my hometown 

like the Orpheum, whose name was only a phoneme
with no trace of the god of Poetry, though

later I would learn about him
poem

                                       Man has lost his gods.
                                       If he loses his dignity,
                                       it’s all over.



I said that.

What did I mean?
First, that the belief
in divinity has almost

poem
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.