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About this poet

Charles Martin was born in New York City in 1942 and grew up in the Bronx. He is a graduate of Fordham University in New York City and received his Doctorate from SUNY at Buffalo. His most recent book of poems, Starting From Sleep: New and Selected Poems (The Overlook Press, 2002), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and was chosen as a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Two of his earlier books of poems, What the Darkness Proposes (1996) and Steal the Bacon (1987), were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Hudson Review, Boulevard, and The Threepenny Review, among others.

About his work, the poet X. J. Kennedy has said: "A poet of masterly command, Charles Martin can think fiercely and feel intensely. He can captivate us with a sustained narrative, or dazzle us with a wicked epigram."

Martin is an acclaimed translator of Latin poetry. His verse translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses (W. W. Norton, 2003) received the 2004 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He has also published translations of the complete poems of Catullus (Johns Hopkins, 1990) and a critical introduction to Catullus's work which is part of Yale University Press's Hermes Series.

He is the recipient of the Literature award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, a 2001 Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A professor at Queensborough Community College (CUNY), he also teaches poetry at Syracuse University, and has taught workshops at the Sewanee Writers Conference, the West Chester Conference on Form and Narrative in Poetry, and the Unterberg Center of the 92nd Street YMHA. In 2006, he was appointed Cathedral Poet in Residence at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. He lives in Manhattan and Syracuse with his wife, arts journalist Johanna Keller.

Happy Ending for the Lost Children

Charles Martin, 1942
One of their picture books would no doubt show
The two lost children wandering in a maze
Of anthropomorphic tree limbs: the familiar crow

Swoops down upon the trail they leave of corn,
Tolerant of the error of their ways.
Hand in hand they stumble onto the story,

Brighteyed with beginnings of fever, scared
Half to death, yet never for a moment
Doubting the outcome that had been prepared

Long in advance: Girl saves brother from oven,
Appalling witch dies in appropriate torment;
Her hoarded treasure buys them their parents' love.

                                * * *

"As happy an ending as any fable
Can provide," squawks the crow, who had expected more:
Delicate morsels from the witch's table.

It's an old story—in the modern version
The random children fall to random terror.
You see it nightly on the television:

Cameras focus on the lopeared bear
Beside the plastic ukulele, shattered
In a fit of rage—the lost children are

Found in the first place we now think to look:
Under the fallen leaves, under the scattered
Pages of a lost children's picture book.

                               * * *

But if we leave terror waiting in the rain
For the wrong bus, or if we have terror find,
At the very last moment the right train,

Only to get off at the wrong station—
If we for once imagine a happy ending,
Which is, as always, a continuation,

It's because the happy ending's a necessity,
It isn't just a sentimental ploy"
Without the happy ending there would be

No one to tell the story to but the witch,
And the story is clearly meant for the girl and boy
Just now about to step into her kitchen.

From Starting from Sleep: New and Selected Poems by Charles Martin. Copyright © 2002 by Charles Martin. Reprinted with the permission of The Overlook Press.

From Starting from Sleep: New and Selected Poems by Charles Martin. Copyright © 2002 by Charles Martin. Reprinted with the permission of The Overlook Press.

Charles Martin

Charles Martin

Charles Martin was born in New York City in 1942 and grew

by this poet

poem
To take steps toward the reappearance alive of the disappeared is a subversive act, 
and measures will be adopted to deal with it.
                               —General Oscar Mejia Victores,
                                  President of Guatemala


In the Palace of the President this morning,
The
poem
Tired of earth, they dwindled on their hill,
Watching and waiting in the moonlight until
The aspens' leaves quite suddenly grew still,

No longer quaking as the disc descended,
That glowing wheel of lights whose coming ended
All waiting and watching. When it landed

The ones within it one by one came forth,