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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.

Now

Liam Rector, 1949 - 2007
Now I see it: a few years
To play around while being
Bossed around

By the taller ones, the ones
With the money
And more muscle, however

Tender or indifferent
They might be at being
Parents; then off to school

And the years of struggle
With authority while learning
Violent gobs of things one didn't

Want to know, with a few tender
And tough teachers thrown in
Who taught what one wanted

And needed to know; then time
To go out and make one's own
Money (on the day or in

The night-shift), playing around
A little longer ("Seed-time,"
"Salad days") with some

Young "discretionary income"
Before procreation (which
Brings one quickly, too quickly,

Into play with some variation
Of settling down); then,
Most often for most, the despised

Job (though some work their way
Around this with work of real
Delight, life's work, with the deepest

Pleasures of mastery); then years
Spent, forgotten, in the middle decades
Of repair, creation, money

Gathered and spent making the family
Happen, as one's own children busily
Work their way into and through

The cycle themselves,
Comic and tragic to see, with some
Fine moments playing with them;

Then, through no inherent virtue
Of one's own, but only because
The oldest ones are busy falling

Off the edge of the planet,
The years of governing,
Of being the dreaded authority

One's self; then the recognition
(Often requiring a stiff drink) that it
Will all soon be ending for one's self,

But not before Alzheimer's comes
For some, as Alzheimer's comes
For my father-in-law now (who

Has forgotten not only who
Shakespeare is but that he taught
Shakespeare for thirty years,

And who sings and dances amidst
The forgotten in the place
To which he's been taken); then

An ever-deepening sense of time
And how the end might really happen,
To really submit, bend, and go

(Raging against that night is really
An adolescent's idiot game).
Time soon to take my place

In the long line of my ancestors
(Whose names I mostly never knew
Or have recently forgotten)

Who took their place, spirit poised
In mature humility (or as jackasses
Braying against the inevitable)

Before me, having been moved
By time through time, having done
The time and their times.

"Nearer my god to thee" I sing
On the deck of my personal Titanic,
An agnostic vessel in the mind.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing
Alive, but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don't be afraid, be buoyed

—In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law
—I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

From The Executive Director of the Fallen World by Liam Rector, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 2006 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

From The Executive Director of the Fallen World by Liam Rector, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 2006 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

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
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

Age moves in the hound
As it was in me moving
Through forest I found

As to dog I went
That year scrounging
Through Manhattan....

The wood opened out,
Unlikely in the city,
As to boy slandering

To leave his fitful home,
Bright he might
poem
I was well towards the end
Of middle-age before I
Realized I loved saying

Disgusting things but didn't
Really myself much enjoy hearing
Them. They

Go to the heart of life,
I realize (I think
Everyone recognizes this),

Since almost everyone
Can agree: Life, so
Generally disgusting.

But no one really
Wants to