About this poet

In 1951, James Galvin was born in Chicago and was raised in northern Colorado. He earned a BA from Antioch College in 1974 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1977.

He has published several collections of poetry, including As Is (Copper Canyon, 2009); X: Poems (2003); Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997 (1997), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Lethal Frequencies (1995); Elements (1988); God's Mistress (1984), which was selected for the National Poetry Series by Marvin Bell; and Imaginary Timber (1980).

Galvin is also the author of the critically acclaimed prose book, The Meadow (1992) and a novel, Fencing the Sky (Henry Holt, 1999).

His honors include a "Discovery"/The Nation award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Galvin lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where he has worked as a rancher part of each year all his life, and in Iowa City, where he is a member of the permanent faculty of the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop.

To the Republic

James Galvin, 1951
                                                       Past
fences the first sheepmen cast across the land, processions
of cringing pitch or cedar posts pulling into the vanishing
point like fretboards carrying barbed melodies, windharp
narratives, songs of place, I'm thinking of the long cowboy
ballads Ray taught me the beginnings of and would have taught
me the ends if he could have remembered them.
                                             But remembering
was years ago when Ray swamped for ranches at a dollar a day
and found, and played guitar in a Saturday night band, and now
he is dead and I'm remembering near the end when he just needed
a drink before he could tie his shoes.
                                      We'd stay up all night
playing the beginnings of songs like Falling Leaf, about a
girl who died of grief, and Zebra Dun, about a horse that
pawed the light out of the moon.
                                Sometimes Ray would break
through and recall a few more verses before he'd drop a line
or scramble a rhyme or just go blank, and his workfat hands
would drop the chords and fall away in disbelief.
                                                 Between
songs he'd pull on the rum or unleash coughing fits that
sounded like nails in a paper bag.
                                  Done, he'd straighten and
say, My cough's not just right, I need another cigarette, and
light the Parliament he bit at an upward angle like Roosevelt
and play the start of another song.
                                   Then, played out and
drunk enough to go home, he'd pick up his hat and case and
make it, usually on a second try, through the front gate
and gently list out into the early morning dark, beginning
again some song without end, yodeling his vote under spangles.

From Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1997. (Originally published in Elements, 1988.) Copyright © 1997 by James Galvin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1997. (Originally published in Elements, 1988.) Copyright © 1997 by James Galvin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

James Galvin

James Galvin

The author of several collections of poetry, James Galvin's book Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997 was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

by this poet

poem
I knew the end would be gone before I got there.
After all, all rainbows lie for a living.
And as you have insisted, repeatedly,
The difference between death and the Eternal 
Present is about as far as one 
Eyelash from the next, not wished upon.
Rainbows are not forms or stories, are they?
They are not
poem
We don't belong to each other.
		          We belong together.
	                                                                  Some poems 
belong together to prove the intentionality of subatomic particles.
                                     
Some poems eat with scissors
poem
Without external reference,
The world presents itself
In perfect clarity.

Wherewithal, arrested moments,
The throes of demystification,
Morality as nothing more
Than humility and honesty, a salty measure.

Then it was a cold snap,
Weather turned lethal so it was easier
To feel affinity
With lodgepole stands,