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About this poet

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1940, Martha Ronk attended Wellesley College and earned a PhD from Yale University.

She is the author of several collections of poetry, including: Vertigo (Coffee House Press, 2007), which was selected by C.D. Wright as a part of the National Poetry Series; In a Landscape of Having to Repeat (Omnidawn, 2004); Why/Why Not (University of California Press, 2003); Recent Terrains (Johns Hopkins Press, 2000); Eyetrouble (University of Georgia Press, 1998); Desert Geometries (Littoral Books, 1992); and Desire in LA (University of Georgia Press, 1990). She is also the author of two chapbooks.

In addition to poetry, she has written a collection of short stories, Glass Grapes: And Other Stories (BOA Editions, 2008); and two memoirs, Displeasures of the Table (Green Integer, 2001) and State of Mind (Sun & Moon Books, 1995).

About Ronk's work, the poet Norma Cole says, "Ronk, in her 'looking for/the conjunction of the past and the present,' produces a poetry that questions the context of living, its arrangements, its decisions. Her sure-footed investigation is equaled by its prosody of progression/recursion in a particular lexicon of grace and elegance."

Ronk is the recipient of the 2005 PEN USA award in poetry, a MacArthur summer Research Grant, the Gertrude Stein Award, and an NEA grant.

She has taught at Colorado University, Otis College of Art and Design and the Naropa University Summer Writing Program. She is currently living in Los Angeles and is a professor of English at Occidental College.

Why knowing is (& Matisse's Woman with a Hat)

Martha Ronk
Why knowing is a quality out of fashion and no one can decide to
but slips into it or ends up with a painting one has never
seen that quality of light before even before having seen it
in between pages of another book and not remembering who knows
or recognizing the questionable quality of light on her face
as she sits for a portrait and isn't allowed to move an inch
you recognize the red silk flower on her hat
and can almost place where you have seen that gray descending
through the light reversing foreground and background
as the directions escape one as the way you have to
live with anyone as she gets up finally from her chair
having written the whole of it in her head as the question
ignored for the hundredth time as a quality of knowing is
oddly resuscitated from a decade prior to this.

From Why/Why Not by Martha Ronk. Copyright © 2003 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of the University of California Press. All rights reserved.

Martha Ronk

Martha Ronk

Born in 1940, Martha Ronk is the author of several collections of poetry, including Vertigo, which was selected by C.D. Wright as a part of the National Poetry Series

by this poet

poem

The tree azalea overwhelms the evening with its scent,
defining everything and the endless fields.

Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone.

The visible object blurs open in front of you,
the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away—