poem index

poet

Linda Pastan

1932- , Bronx , NY , United States
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Linda Pastan

On May 27, 1932, Linda Pastan was born to a Jewish family in the Bronx. She graduated from Radcliffe College and received an MA from Brandeis University.

She is the author of Traveling Light (W. W. Norton & Co., 2011); Queen of a Rainy Country (2006); The Last Uncle (2002); Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (1998), which was nominated for the National Book Award; An Early Afterlife (l995); Heroes In Disguise (1991), The Imperfect Paradise (1988), a nominee for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; PM/AM: New and Selected Poems (l982), which was nominated for the National Book Award; The Five Stages of Grief (l978), and A Perfect Circle of Sun (l971).

About Pastan's The Five Stages of Grief, the poet May Sarton said, "It is about all her integrity that has made Linda Pastan such a rewarding poet. Nothing is here for effect. There is no self-pity, but in this new book she has reached down to a deeper layer and is letting the darkness in. These poems are full of foreboding and acceptance, a wry unsentimental acceptance of hard truth. They are valuable as signposts, and in the end, as arrivals. Pastan's signature is growth."

Among her many awards and honors include a Pushcart Prize, a Dylan Thomas Award, the Di Castagnola Award, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Maurice English Award, the Charity Randall Citation, and the 2003 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She was a recipient of a Radcliffe College Distinguished Alumnae Award.

From 1991 to 1995, she served as the Poet Laureate of Maryland, and was among the staff of the Breadloaf Writers Conference for twenty years. Linda Pastan lives in Potomac, Maryland.

by this poet

poem

The way a birthmark  
on a woman’s face defines 
rather than mars
her beauty, 

so the skyscrapers—
those flowers of technology— 
reveal the perfection 
of the garden they surround.        

Perhaps Eden is buried 
here in Japan,
where an
poem
Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor 
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as
poem
I married you
for all the wrong reasons,
charmed by your 
dangerous family history,
by the innocent muscles, bulging
like hidden weapons 
under your shirt,
by your naive ties, the colors
of painted scraps of sunset.

I was charmed too
by your assumptions
about me: my serenity—
that mirror waiting to be cracked,