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About this poet

The oldest of seven children from a working-class background, Paul Mariani was born in New York City on February 29, 1940 and grew up there and on Long Island. He earned his bachelor's degree from Manhattan College, a Master's from Colgate University, and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York.

He is the author of seven poetry collections: Epitaphs for the Journey (Cascade Books, 2012), Deaths & Transfigurations (Paraclete Press, 2005), The Great Wheel (W. W. Norton, 1996), Salvage Operations: New & Selected Poems (1990), Prime Mover (1985), Crossing Cocytus (1982), and Timing Devices (1979).

He has published numerous books of prose, including Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (Viking, 2002), and God and the Imagination: On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable (University of Georgia Press, 2002). Other books include A Useable Past: Essays, 1973-1983 (1984), William Carlos Williams: The Poet and His Critics (1975), and A Commentary on the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1970), as well as four biographies: The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane (1999); Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell (1994), both named New York Times Notable Books of the year; Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman (1990); and William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (1981), which won the New Jersey Writers Award, was short-listed for an American Book Award, and was also named a New York Times Notable Book of the year. His latest biography, Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life (Viking) appeared in 2008.

His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2009 he received the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. He was Distinguished University Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught from 1968 until 2000, and currently holds a Chair in Poetry at Boston College. Mariani and his wife, Eileen, have three grown sons and live in western Massachusetts.

The Gods Who Come Among Us in the Guise of Strangers

Paul Mariani, 1940

for Charlie Miller

Late nights, with summer moths clinging 
to the screens & the shadows of the Old Great 
flickering across the tv screen, suddenly, 
there would be Charlie's inquisitorial head 
peering in the window, the shock of white hair, 
followed by the heart-stopping shock 
of greeting. Just passing through, he'd say, 
and--seeing as the light was on-- 
thought we might have ourselves a talk.

Did I ever have time enough for Charlie? 
Usually not. The story of my life, 
of the one, as Chaucer says of someone, 
who seems always busier than he is. 
Then, abruptly, & discourteously, 
death put a stop to Charlie's visits. 
Summer moths collect still at the windows. 
Then leaves & winter ice. Then summer moths 
again. Each year, old ghost, I seem 
to miss you more and more, your youth spent 
with Auden & the Big Ones, words-- 
theirs, yours--helping you survive 
a brutal youth. Too late I see now 
how you honored me like those hidden 
gods of old who walk among us like 
the dispossessed, and who, if you are 
among the lucky ones, tap at your window 
when you least expect to ask you for a cup 
of water and a little of your time.

From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Paul Mariani

Paul Mariani

The oldest of seven children from a working-class background, Paul Mariani was

by this poet

poem
Just after my wife's miscarriage (her second 
in four months), I was sitting in an empty 
classroom exchanging notes with my friend, 
a budding Joyce scholar with steelrimmed 
glasses, when, lapsed Irish Catholic that he was, 
he surprised me by asking what I thought now 
of God's ways toward man. It was spring
poem
Beyond the moon, beyond planet blue 
and planet red, each day further 
from the sun she floats out toward

the empty dark of X. Having done 
what she was sent out years before 
to do, she gave up sending even

the faintest signals back to earth, 
to bend instead her shattered wings 
across her breast for warmth
poem
In the Tuileries we came upon the Great Wheel 
rising gargantuan above the trees. Evening 
was coming on. An after-dinner stroll, descending 
by easy stages toward the river, a bridge of leaves 
above us, broken here and there by street lights 
coming on. Our time here nearly over, our return

home a shadow