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About this poet

Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx in 1918. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she began writing poems at a young age. By her mid-teens, she was publishing poems in literary journals and anthologies. During the 1940s and 1950s, she worked in a factory in New York City and as a translator in Los Angeles.

In 1952, Replansky published her first book, Ring Song (Scribner), which was nominated for a National Book Award. She is also the author of Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012), which won the 2013 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994).

Replansky is known for her lifelong dedication to social causes. Of her work, Philip Levine writes, “Replansky is an intensely political poet, appalled by the cruelty, greed, and corruption of the masters of nations and corporations, appalled and enraged. I was drawn first to her lyricism, but I soon saw the rightness of her vision….”

B. H. Fairchild writes, “Replansky has become the master of a Blakean music radically unfashionable in its devotion to song-like meters and the reality and politics of working-class experience.”

With her partner, the writer and scholar Eva Kollisch, she received the 2015 Clara Lemlich Award honoring women who have spent their lives working for the larger good. She lives in New York City.


Bibliography

Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012)
The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994)
Ring Song (Scribner, 1952)

About Not Writing

Tongue-tied, I stand before
Myself as inquisitor.
 
I loved to mark time
With a beat, with rhyme.
 
Time marked me with its thumb,
Slowed down the pendulum.
 
Slowed it down, or stopped:
Words were lopped, words dropped—
 
No use to devise
Reasons or alibis.
 
Now, strangely, I draw breath
Well past my ninetieth.
 
What’s begun is almost done,
Still I must brood upon
 
The much that I sought,
The little that I wrought,
 
Till time brings its own
Lockjaw of stone.
 

Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Replansky. “About Not Writing” originally appeared in Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Press, 2012). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Replansky. “About Not Writing” originally appeared in Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Press, 2012). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Naomi Replansky

Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx in 1918. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she began writing poems at a young age. By her mid-teens, she was publishing poems in literary journals and anthologies. During the 1940s and 1950s, she worked in a factory in New York City and as a translator in Los Angeles.

by this poet

poem
Poet (kneels stiffly):
 
I beg you, Muse, come down, come down and redeem me! 
You used to arrive any time, you would come for no reason.
Now, though the sweat of death stood on my forehead,
No song would be shaken.
 
Muse:
poem
1.
My blurring eyes, my deafened ears—
O careless sadism of the years!
 
Sun-loving and sun-ravaged skin—
One-sided love has done you in.
 
My teeth—less said, less missed!—my heart—
My runaway, my telltale heart—
 
poem
Tentacled for food,
You range your underwater neighborhood.
 
To look, to like, to eat, to break your fast! 
Before you move an inch an hour is past,
 
Your prey is past, a swarm of scales, an eye,
A round fish eye, a rude unblinking eye.