About this poet

Tom Sleigh was born in Mount Pleasant, Texas. He attended the California Institute of the Arts and Evergreen State College, and earned an MA from Johns Hopkins University. Sleigh is the author of nine books of poetry; his most recent collections include Army Cats (Graywolf Press, 2011), winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award. His new book, Station Zed, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2015. He has also published a translation of Euripides's Herakles and a book of essays, Interview With a Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2006).

Widely anthologized, his poems and prose have appeared in The New YorkerVirginia Quarterly ReviewPoetryAmerican Poetry ReviewYale Review, ThreepennyThe Village Voice, and other literary magazines, as well as The Best of the Best American Poetry (Scribner, 2013), The Best American Poetry, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Pushcart Anthology

About Sleigh's work, the poet Philip Levine wrote in Ploughshares: "Sleigh's reviewers use words such as 'adept,' 'elegant,' and 'classical.' Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas that are enacted in these poems, the deep encounters that often shatter the participants and occasionally restore them. What delights me most is seeing a poet of his accomplishments and his large and well-earned reputation suddenly veer into a new arena of both our daily and our mythical lives. For the writer, such daring may be its own reward; for the reader, it is thrilling to overhear a writer pushing into greatness."

Seamus Heaney has said of Sleigh’s poems: "Tom Sleigh’s poetry is hard-earned and well founded. I great admire the way it refuses to cut emotional corners and yet achieves a sense of lyric absolution."

Sleigh has received the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Individual Writer's Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, and fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among many others. He is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn.

A Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Station Zed (Graywolf Press, 2015)
Army Cats (Graywolf Press, 2011)
Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
Far Side of the Earth (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
The Dreamhouse (University of Chicago Press, 1999)
The Chain (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
Waking (University of Chicago Press, 1990)
After One (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)

Prose

Interview With a Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2006)

Translation

Herakles by Euripides (Oxford University Press, 2000)

A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007

Tom Sleigh
He said, "It is terrible what happens."
           And "So, Mr. Tom,
do not forget me"—an old-fashioned ring, pop tunes,
salsa! salsa! the techno-version of Beethoven's
Fifth, Fairouz singing how love has arrived,
that's what he heard after they dropped the bombs,
his ambulance crawling through smoke while cellphones
going off here here here kept ringing—
how the rubble-buried bodies'still living
relatives kept calling to see who survived.

And when he dug through concrete scree scorched black
           still smoking
from the explosion, squadrons of jets droning overhead,
houses blown to rebar, he saw cellphones'
display lights flashing from incoming calls
and when he flipped the covers, saw phone camera pics,
pics of kids, wives, dads, single, grouped, some wearing
silly party hats, scenes of hilarity
compacted on the screen: it was "not good"
he said, to have to take the phone out of the body

part pocket: Hello—no, no, he's here,
           right here, but not—
and then he'd have to explain...and so he stopped
answering. A soft-spoken young man
studying engineering, only moonlighting
as an ambulance driver, he stood at
the crossroads where Jesus turned water
into wine and where, rising out of rubble, floating down
the cratered street, bride and bridegroom came walking
in the heat and as they came the wedding guests held up
cell cameras clicking when the couple climbed, waving,
           into TRUST TAXI
blazoned on the car's rear windscreen. The muezzin's
nasal wail began to blare all over town, and the pair
drove off to ululating shouts and cries, firecrackers
kicking up dust in the square. The show over, we
got back into our car, our tires crunching
over rubble. As I sat there rubbernecking
at a burned-out tank, he shrugged: "All this—how embarrassing."
And "I hope this is the story you are after."

Copyright © 2011 by Tom Sleigh. Reprinted from Army Cats with the permission of Graywolf Press.

Copyright © 2011 by Tom Sleigh. Reprinted from Army Cats with the permission of Graywolf Press.

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is the author of nine books of poetry, a translation of Euripides' Herakles, and a book of essays. 

by this poet

poem
Out of the stone ark that carried them this far
in their two by two progress up to here,
they've outlived everyone
and everything they've known—

he in his fishscales up to his waist, she
in her grunge hairdo of stone:
and on each face no guilt for surviving,
no stony comprehension

of all they've left behind,
poem

1
The cathedral being built 
around our split level house was so airy, it stretched 
so high it was like a cloud of granite 
and marble light the house rose up inside. 

At the time I didn’t notice masons laying courses 
of stone ascending, flying buttresses 
pushing
poem
I had a blueprint
of history
in my head —

it was a history of the martyrs
of love, the fools
of tyrants, the tyrants
themselves weeping
at the fate of their own soldiers —

a sentimental blueprint,
lacking depth —
a ruled axis X and Y
whose illusions
were bearable . . .
then unbearable . . .

In that blueprint