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About this poet

On April 10, 1945, Norman Dubie was born in Barre, Vermont. He began writing poetry at eleven, and was influenced by John Keats and D. H. Lawrence. During Dubie's childhood, his father had a religious conversion, began studying theology, and moved the family to New Hampshire. The young Dubie watched his father become politically active in his parish and encourage support of the civil rights movement.

After finishing high school, Dubie had hoped to play football for West Point, but instead followed his father's wishes and enrolled at the University of New Hampshire at Durham, where he failed every subject except English and Geology. Dubie took nine months off from his studies and was later rejected by the draft due to high blood pressure. He enrolled at Goddard College in Vermont and received his BA in 1965. He then received a fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he earned his MFA in 1968, as well as an invitation to stay on as a member of the program's regular faculty.

Dubie's first book, Alehouse Sonnets, was written during a blizzard while he was still a graduate student. The manuscript of poems was chosen as a runner-up for the International Poetry Forum Prize and was later published by the University of Pittsburg Press in 1971. Richard Howard, one of the poets on the jury, urged Dubie to establish an MFA program at Arizona State University in Tempe, and in 1975 Dubie accepted a position there as consultant in the arts and launched their creative writing program, though he did not accept the title of director.

During 1975, Dubie published four books of poetry, and a year later received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Since then, he has published numerous collections of poetry, including The Volcano (Copper Canyon Press, 2010); The Insomniac Liar of Topo (2007); Ordinary Mornings of a Coliseum (2004); The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (2001), Selected and New Poems (1986), and The Clouds of Magellan (1992). His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

In an interview published in American Poetry Review, Dubie said that he aims to "challenge whatever the assumed limits of the lyric are." He is well known for poems that invoke the characters and voices of other writers and artists such as Chekhov, Proust, Ingmar Bergman, Rodin, and many others.

Dubie has received the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently lives and teaches in Tempe, Arizona.

The Novel as Manuscript

Norman Dubie, 1945
                     —an ars poetica


I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps 
like immense museum masterpieces
patchwork
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping...

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did the whole
Soviet system:
the Berlin Wall, tanks from Afghanistan
and Ceausescu's bride before a firing squad.

It had begun with the character of Yuri Zhivago
in a frozen wilderness, the summer house
of his dead in-laws, his 
pregnant mistress asleep
before the fireplace
with flames dancing around a broken chair, piano keys
and the gardener's long black underwear.

Lara lying there. A vulgar fat businessman
coming by sleigh to collect her for the dangers
of a near arctic escape...

But for Yuri, not that long ago, he was
with celebrity, 
a young doctor publishing a thin volume
of poems in France, he was writing
now at a cold desk
poems against all experience
and for love of a woman buried
in moth-eaten furs on the floor—

while he wrote
wolves out along the green treeline
howled at him. The author of this novel,
Boris Pasternak arranged it all. Stalin would
have liked to have killed him. But superstition kept him from it.
So, the daughter of Pasternak's mistress eventually 
is walking with a candle
through a prison basement—
she is stepping over acres of twisted corpses
hoping to locate her vanished mother...
she thinks this reminds her of edging slowly
over the crust on a very deep snow, just a child who believes 
she is about to be swallowed by the purity of it all,
like this write your new poems.

Copyright © 2011 by Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.

Norman Dubie

Norman Dubie

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Norman Dubie is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association.

by this poet

poem
                                   --for Allen

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an
poem

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens, 
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving 
there next to its darkening mother
where the
poem
You were never told, Mother, how old Illya  was drunk
That last holiday, for five days and nights

He stumbled through Petersburg forming
A choir of mutes, he dressed them in pink ascension gowns

And, then, sold Father's Tirietz stallion so to rent
A hall for his Christmas recital: the audience

Was rowdy but