poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Mark Jarman was born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, on June 5, 1952. He earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1974 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1976. He has published numerous collections of poetry, including Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011); Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007); To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004); Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000); Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997), which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Iris (Story Line Press, 1992); The Black Riviera (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which won the 1991 Poets' Prize; Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985); The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981); and North Sea (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1978).

Jarman served as Elector for the American Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine form 2009-2012. During the 1980s, he and Robert McDowell founded, edited, and published the Reaper, a magazine that helped established the movements of New Narrative and New Formalism. Selections from the magazine were published in book form as the Reaper Essays (Story Line Press, 1996). Jarman has published two collections of essays: Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002) and the Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001). He is also coeditor with David Mason of Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (Story Line Press, 1996).

The poet Edward Hirsch described Jarman's poetry as "God-haunted. [Jarman] writes as an unorthodox but essentially Christian poet who embraces paradox and treats contradiction, to use Simone Weil's phrase, as a lever for transcendence."

Jarman's awards include a Joseph Henry Jackson Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2011, he received the Balcones Poetry Prize for Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, the soprano Amy Jarman.




Bibliography

Poetry

Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011)
Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007)
To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004)
Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000)
Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997)
Iris (Story Line Press, 1992)
The Black Riviera (Story Line Press, 1990)
Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985)
The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981)
North Sea (Cleveland State University Press, 1978)

Prose

Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
The Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001)
Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, coedited with David Mason (Story Line Press, 1996)
The Reaper Essays, coedited with Robert McDowell (Story Line Press, 1996)


If I Were Paul

Mark Jarman, 1952
Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed 
flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets 
across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first time you conceived of justice, engendered mercy, brought parity into being, 
coaxed liberty like a marten from its den to uncoil its limber spine in a sunny clearing, how you 
understood the inheritance of first principles, the legacy of noble thought, and built a city like a 
forest in the forest, and erected temples like thunderheads.

Consider, as if it were penicillin or the speed of light, the discovery of another’s hands, his oval 
field of vision, her muscular back and hips, his nerve-jarred neck and shoulders, her bleeding 
gums and dry elbows and knees, his baldness and cauterized skin cancers, her lucid and 
forgiving gaze, his healing touch, her mind like a prairie.  Consider the first knowledge of 
otherness.  How it felt.

Consider what you were meant to be in the egg, in your parents' arms, under a sky full of stars.

Now imagine what I have to say when I learn of your enterprising viciousness, the discipline 
with which one of you turns another into a robot or a parasite or a maniac or a body strapped to a 
chair.  Imagine what I have to say. 

Do the impossible.  Restore life to those you have killed, wholeness to those you have maimed, 
goodness to what you have poisoned, trust to those you have betrayed. 

Bless each other with the heart and soul, the hand and eye, the head and foot, the lips, tongue, 
and teeth, the inner ear and the outer ear, the flesh and spirit, the brain and bowels, the blood and 
lymph, the heel and toe, the muscle and bone, the waist and hips, the chest and shoulders, the 
whole body, clothed and naked, young and old, aging and growing up.

I send you this not knowing if you will receive it, or if having received it, you will read it, or if 
having read it, you will know that it contains my blessing.

From Epistles by Mark Jarman. Copyright © 2008 by Mark Jarman. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.

From Epistles by Mark Jarman. Copyright © 2008 by Mark Jarman. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.

Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman

Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry.

by this poet

poem
Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,
Going on sixteen, like a corny song?
I see myself so clearly then, and painfully--
Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform
Behind the candy counter in the theater
After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically
To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me,
Trundle me
poem
In Ball's Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses
poem
Roland was a Paladin of Charlemagne,
And he was my mother’s cousin.  The Paladin
Served Charlemagne and died, blowing his horn.
The cousin spent a day with her at the fair
Over sixty years ago.  The great Paladin
Enjoys an epic named after him.
The cousin is remembered as a big kid
Who never grew up.  His first