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About this poet

On Nivember 21, 1949, Liam Rector was born in Washington, D.C. He received an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

His books of poems include The Executive Director of the Fallen World (University of Chicago Press, 2006), American Prodigal (1994) and The Sorrow of Architecture (1984).

His reviews and essays appeared in magazines and books that include American Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Hudson Review, Bostonia, The Oxford Companion to Literature, and Contemporary Poets.

"Liam Rector is one of the most linguistically liquid and gifted poets of his generation," said poet Lucie Brock-Broido. "His is the oddest and most hallucinatory romance with Romance in American letters."

Rector's honors include fellowships in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he received the Friend to Writers Award from PEN New England. He served as poetry editor of Harvard Magazine and as associate editor of Harvard Review and Agni.

Rector edited The Day I Was Older: On the Poetry of Donald Hall (1989), and co-edited with Tree Swenson On the Poetry of Frank Bidart: Fastening the Voice to the Page (University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Rector taught at Columbia University, The New School, Emerson College, George Mason University, and elsewhere. He founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and administered literary programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets.

Liam Rector died on August 15, 2007.

Hans Reading, Hans Smoking

Liam Rector, 1949 - 2007

My mother, poised around behavior, would say
You are sitting there reading and smoking, Hans,
And this would describe for her, to her utter

Satisfaction, what it is you are doing.
Knowing you I guess you are stationed there
In grief, reverie, worry--your car broken

Down, the mechanic wanting money, and you without,
For the moment, what it takes--and you thinking
Of love lost as you read that impossible book

Your father last gave you....I see you smoking
And as an addict myself I know this is something
You are barely doing....The habit smokes itself

And you, you are turning the page where the woman
From New Orleans, like your woman, goes to Manhattan.
I suppose my mother, in her mania, could never afford

To think there was anything hovering around, anything
Behind behavior. Unable to sit, to go into that sorrow
Where what failed to happen presses against what did,

She would get up, go out looking for "Something
Different," do anything to keep moving, behaving...
Going. But you, Hans, you are a sitter, and I know

You will not be getting up until you have put this time 
Behind you. And so your friends pass by waiting,
Wanting to know what you will come up with when you rise

From your stationary chair, our Hans reading and smoking.

From American Prodigal by Liam Rector, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 1994 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the author and Story Line Press.

From American Prodigal by Liam Rector, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 1994 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the author and Story Line Press.

Liam Rector

The author of three books of poetry, Liam Rector founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College

by this poet

poem

We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.

We called other friends—the ones
Your mother hadn't called—and told them
What you had decided, and some said

What you did was right; it was the thing
poem
Dressed in an old coat I lumber
Down a street in the East Village, time itself

Whistling up my ass and looking to punish me
For all the undone business I have walked away from,

And I think I might have stayed 
In that last tower by the ocean,

The one I built with my hands and furnished
Using funds which came
poem
for Bertolt Brecht

This apartment with no furniture,
where no one puts anything up,
where everyone schemes to get out.

This mess, to the right and the left of me,
that equation of garbage wherein matter moves its way,
the magazine sector in glanced-at demise.

This price, and that mind, and nothing to