poem index

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

About this poet

Born on June 19, 1950, in Chicago, Marianne Boruch earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied with James Tate. She is the author of eight books of poems, including Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan University Press, 2010); and Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004).

Exploring the essential in the mundane and everyday, Boruch’s poems are known for their precision, calm attention, and careful reserve. Poet David Young writes that Boruch isn’t “flamboyant or flashy, armored in theory or swimming with a school. Her poems eschew the need for stylistic eccentricity or surface mannerisms. They are contained, steady, and exceptionally precise. They build toward blazing insights with the utmost honesty and care."

An essayist as well as a poet, Boruch has also published two critical works, In the Blue Pharmacy (Trinity University Press, 2005) and Poetry’s Old Air (University of Michigan Press, 1995), as well as a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana University Press, 2011).

Boruch has earned fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has taught at Tunghai University in Taiwan and the University of Maine at Farmington. In 1987, she developed the creative writing MFA program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, serving as its first director until 2005, and she remains on the faculty today. Since 1988, she has also taught semi-regularly in the low-residency MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.


Bibliography

Poetry

Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan University Press, 2010)
Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004)
A Stick that Breaks and Breaks (Oberlin College Press, 1997)
Moss Burning (Oberlin College Press, 1995)
Descendant (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
View from the Gazebo (Wesleyan University Press, 1985)

Nonfiction

The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana University Press, 2011)
In the Blue Pharmacy (Trinity University Press, 2005)
Poetry’s Old Air (University of Michigan Press, 1995)

What God Knew

Marianne Boruch, 1950

when he knew nothing.  A leaf
looks like this, doesn’t it? No one
to ask. So came the invention
of the question too, the way all 
at heart are rhetorical, each leaf
suddenly wedded to its shade. When God 

knew nothing, it was better, wasn't it? 
Not the color blue yet, its deep 
unto black.  No color at all really, 
not yet one thing leading to another, sperm 
to egg endlessly, thus cities, thus 
the green countryside lying down 
piecemeal, the meticulous and the trash, 
between lake and woods 
the dotted swiss of towns along 
any state road. Was God

sleeping when he knew nothing?  As opposed 
to up all night (before there was night) 
or alert all day  (before day)?  As opposed to that,
little engine starting up by itself, history, 
a thing that keeps beginning
and goes past its end. Will it end, this
looking back?  From here, it's one shiny 
ravaged century after another, 
but back there, in a house or two: a stillness, 
a blue cup, a spoon, one silly flower raised up 
from seed.  I think so fondly of the day 
someone got lucky 
and dodged the tragedy meant for him. It spilled 
like sound from a faulty speaker
over an open field. He listened from
a distance. God-like, any one of us
could say.

From Grace, Fallen From by Marianne Boruch. Copyright © 2008 by Marianne Boruch. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Grace, Fallen From by Marianne Boruch. Copyright © 2008 by Marianne Boruch. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Marianne Boruch

Marianne Boruch

Born on June 19, 1950, in Chicago, Marianne Boruch earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied with James Tate. She is the author of eight books of poems, including Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan University Press, 2010); and Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004).

by this poet

poem
Someone arranged them in 1620.
Someone found the rare lemon and paid
a lot and neighbored it next 
to the plain pear, the plain
apple of the lost garden, the glass
of wine, set down mid-sip—
don’t drink it, someone said, it’s for
the painting.  And the rabbit skull—
whose idea was that?  There had
poem
Because the body really 
is Mars, is Earth or Venus or the saddest downsized
Pluto, can be booked, bound, mapped then.
Or rendered like something off the bone, fat just under 
the animal skin, to lard, 
cheaper, quicker than butter, like stillness
belies restlessness, like every yes
was or will be not,
poem

                                   —in memory


Eventually one dreams the real thing.

The cave as it was, what we paid to straddle
one skinny box-turned-seat down the middle, narrow boat
made special for the state park, the wet, the tricky

passing into rock