poem index

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

About this poet

Poet, translator, and essayist W. S. Di Piero was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1945 and grew up in an Italian working class neighborhood. He attended St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia and received a master's degree from San Francisco State University in 1971.

His collections of poetry include Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), Skirts and Slacks (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), Shadows Burning (Northwestern University Press, 1995), The Restorers (University of Chicago Press, 1992), and The Dog Star (University of Massachusetts Press, 1990).

His books of translation include Euripedes's Ion (1996); The Ellipse: Selected Poems of Leonardo Sinisgalli (1983); This Strange Joy: Selected Poems of Sandro Penna (1982), for which he won the Academy of American Poets' first Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize; and Giacomo Leopardi's Pensieri (1981).

His essay collections are Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures (1996), Out of Eden: Essays on Modern Art (1991), and Memory and Enthusiasm: Essays, 1975-1985 (1989).

Di Piero's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and a grant from the Lila Wallace-Readers' Digest Fund.

He lives in San Francisco and is a professor of English at Stanford University.

Smoke

W. S. Di Piero, 1945
We loiter in the cobblestone alley,
Beans, Clams, Yom-Yom and me,
smoking punk. Snip the wiry stem,
trim the nubby end, scratch fire
from a zipper then pass the stink around.
William Penn designed these blocks
squared off, brick, crosshatched by alleys
to prevent the spread of fire. So fire
runs down my throat, reed
turning to iron inside my lungs.

Yom-Yom has an uncle in Bucks County.
Country boys sneak behind barns and puff
on cedar bark. Smoke’s the only thing
we have in common. Smoke when our breath
meets cold moist air, though no smoke rings
in winter, while sullen cars drag gray on gray
down city streets or country roads.
Someday I’ll smoke Camels, my father’s brand,
then Gauloises to prove I’m stronger than him
in burning whatever’s inside that won’t sleep.

Excerpted from Chinese Apples by W. S. Di Piero Copyright © 2007 by W. S. DiPiero. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Excerpted from Chinese Apples by W. S. Di Piero Copyright © 2007 by W. S. DiPiero. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

W. S. Di Piero

W. S. Di Piero

Poet, translator, and essayist W. S. Di Piero was the first recipient of the Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize from the Academy of American Poets.