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May 23, 2009 Saint Peter's Church, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born in Massachusetts in 1939, Joan Larkin received her BA from Swarthmore College. She went on to earn her MA in English from the University of Arizona, and her MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College.

Larkin's first collection, Housework, was published by Out & Out Books in 1975. Her third book, Cold River (Painted Leaf Press, 1997), won the Lambda Literary Award. Her other collections include A Long Sound (Granite Press, 1986), Sor Juana's Love Poems/Poemas de Amor (in Spanish and English, University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), and My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose Press, 2007), for which she won the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She has also co-edited three poetry anthologies: Amazon Poetry (Out & Out Books, 1975), Lesbian Poetry (Persephone Press, 1980), and Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (St. Martin's Press, 1988).

Critics and poets alike have praised Larkin's poems: Marie Ponsot has remarked on their "probing language" (Marie Ponsot) and Gerald Stern has heralded Larkin's "overwhelming…honesty". Julie R. Enszer has described Larkin's poems as "expansive in subject matter and their location in time and place, but they are grounded in the things that make poetry strong: images, new and startling observations like the consistency of a person's ashes and the excavation of significant relationships."

Larkin is the 2011 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. In addition to the Lambda and Audre Lorde Awards, Larkin's honors include a nomination for a Publishing Triangle Award, a second Lambda Literary Award for nonfiction in 2000, and fellowships in poetry and playwriting from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Larkin has taught at Brooklyn College, Sarah Lawrence College, Goddard College, and Columbia College Chicago. She currently teaches at the MFA Program in Poetry Writing at Drew University.

Rhyme of My Inheritance

Joan Larkin

 

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Joan Larkin

Joan Larkin

Born in Massachusetts in 1939, Joan Larkin is the 2011 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship

by this poet

poem
In barlight alchemized: gold pate, the bellmouth
tenor, liquor trapped in a glass. The e-flat
clarinet chases time, strings shudder,
remembering the hundred tongues. Here comes old
snakeshine, scrolls stored in the well, here comes
the sobbing chazzan. O my lucky uncle,
you've escaped the Czar's army. Thunder
is
poem
Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us			               

stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes 						

crammed with something soft. She had a bulb	         

of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots.       

Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder 

and fed chunks into it and forced them
poem
I’m older than my father when he turned
bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver
in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain.  I don’t 
believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is 
now his flesh has finished rotting from his long 
bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only 
convert under