poem index

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

About this poet

Born in Kansas, Keith Waldrop served in the United States military and in 1954, he met his wife, the poet and translator Rosmarie Waldrop while stationed in Kitzingen, Germany. He studied at Aix-Marseille and Michigan Universities, earning a PhD in comparative literature in 1964. His first book of poetry, A Windmill Near Calvary (University of Michigan, 1968), was nominated for a National Book Award.

He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (Omnidawn, 2016); Several Gravities (Siglio, 2009), a collection of collages; Transcendental Studies (University of California Press, 2009), a trilogy of collage poems which won the National Book Award for Poetry; and a translation of Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen (Wesleyan, 2009). His other work includes The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon: With Sample Poems (Omnidawn, 2004). His other collections of poetry include The House Seen from Nowhere (Litmus, 2002), Well Well Reality (Omnidawn, 1998, with Rosmarie Waldrop), and the trilogy The Locality Principle (Avec Books, 1995), The Silhouette of the Bridge (Avec Books, 1997), which won the Americas Award for Poetry, and Semiramis, If I Remember (Avec Books, 2001).

He has translated several contemporary French poets, such as Anne-Marie Albiach, Claude Royet-Journoud, Dominique Fourcade, Jean Grosjean, and Paol Keineg. In 2006, he completed a translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (Wesleyen University Press).

According to Waldrop, collage is a major mode of composition for him. He explains the process as: "a way to explore, not necessarily the thing I am tearing up, but the thing I am contriving to build out of torn pieces. To the extent that there is a purpose to what I do, its end is the 'enjoyment of a composition'—a concern, as A. N. Whitehead notes, common to aesthetics and logic."

About his work, the poet Michael Palmer has said, "As we would expect from Keith Waldrop, it is suffused with a particular humanity and an appreciation for the absurd, even the grotesque, in daily life. The rhythmic apposition of prose and poetry brings to mind the freedom, alertness and quality of distillation in Basho's classic travel sketches. With his quietly precise sense of modulation and his unerring gaze, Waldrop remains one of the vital and requisite, semi-secret presences in American letters."

Waldrop has received an award from the Fund for Poetry, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Berlin Artists Program of the DAAD. In 2000, he received a Medal from the French government with rank of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters, for lifetime contribution to French literature.

He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he teaches at Brown University, and has served as co-editor of Burning Deck Press, with his wife Rosmarie Waldrop since 1968.

Selected Bibliography

Selected Poems (Omnidawn, 2016)
Several Gravities (Siglio, 2009)
Transcendental Studies (University of California Press, 2009)
The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon, with Sample Poems (Omnidawn, 2004)
The House Seen from Nowhere (Litmus, 2002)
Semiramis, If I Remember (Avec, 2001)
Well Well Reality (Omnidawn, 1998, with Rosmarie Waldrop)
Analogies of Escape (Burning Deck, 1997)
The Silhouette of the Bridge (Avec, 1997)
The Locality Principle (Avec Books, 1995)
Potential Random (Paradigm Press, 1992)
The Opposite of Letting the Mind Wander (Lost Roads, 1990)
Hegel's Family (Station Hill, 1989)
A Ceremony Somewhere Else (Awede, 1984)
The Space of Half an Hour (Burning Deck, 1983)
The Ruins of Providence (Copper Beech, 1983)
Windfall Losses (Pourboire Press, 1977)
The Garden of Effort (Burning Deck, 1975)
A Windmill Near Calvary (University of Michigan, 1968)

Light While There Is Light (Sun and Moon, 1993)

Below the Earth

My first glance takes in 
an army, tens of thousands ready 
armed. As a mirror reflects 
indistinctly and with a feeble 
light, so it cracks and 
soon fades. From its surface a clear 
image of the beholder. 
In these paintings: harbors, promontories, 
shores, rivers, fountains, 
fanes, groves, mountains, flocks, and of 
course shepherds. Sometimes mythological 
episodes, figures of the gods, the 
battles at Troy, wanderings of Ulysses. 
Scorned in these days of bad taste. 
Now we have frescos of mon- 
strosities, candelabra supporting 
shrines, stalks with human heads. 
Malachite green, Armenian 
blue, red earths in 
abundance, vermilion like a drug.

From Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop. Copyright © 2009 by Keith Waldrop. Used by permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

From Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop. Copyright © 2009 by Keith Waldrop. Used by permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

Keith Waldrop

Keith Waldrop

Keith Waldrop is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Selected Poemsi (Omnidawn, 2016), as well as translations of contemporary French poets.

by this poet


        common time I follow you un-          
        kept secret on 
        a basic undersound


        common time I follow you un-
        kept secret on 
        a basic undersound

        this is the first part of the rhyme
        allow for sequences of overheard
Do not alarm yourself, I
could not rest content with 
moral lectures and continual 

like the solar system, I
could not hold my head up, made 
endlessly to 

destined for grand ceremonies, I
was much affected by finding myself so
thin and so worn

(we use theory
to mean it is possible to
I could

burn in hell forever

set the glass
down, our
emotion's moment

eyes vs sunlight

how removed
here, from

towards the unfamiliar and

frankincense forests
against the discerning light


frightful indeed, the sound of
traffic and
no appetite