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About this poet

Joy Ladin was born in 1961 and received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1982. Ladin went on to earn an MFA in creative writing/poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1995 and a PhD in English from Princeton University in 2000.

Often devotional and at times based in history and utilizing sacred Jewish texts, Ladin’s early poetry “offers a personal view of the big truths,” writes Stanley Moss.

In 2007, Ladin became the first openly transgender employee of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution. Ladin has published numerous poetry collections, including The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017), Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015), Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009), The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007), and Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003).

Ladin is also the author of a memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). Ladin says, “When I started writing as myself, I started writing about feelings, tastes, colors, relationships, and I found myself writing with much more depth, confidence, authority and power, because I wasn’t hiding anymore. I had always lived in my writing, but now I was living in plain sight, living in truth, writing toward wholeness as a human being instead of trying to hide behind my words.”

Ladin is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Hadassah Brandeis Research Fellowship, two Forward Fives awards, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Ladin teaches at the Stern College of Yeshiva University, where she holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017)
Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017)
Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
The Definition of Joy (Sheep Meadow Press, 2012)
Coming to Life (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)
Psalms (Wipf & Stock, 2010)
Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)
The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007)
Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003)

Prose
Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012)
Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (2010)

Between Wars

You’ve lost your soul again. Go back
to the window. Note the crocus
defying expectations

in the bed your mother hunkers over,
missing you, in her fashion,
now that you’re always there.

Why don’t you wear your uniform, she asks.
Will you ever get out of bed,
running her hand through your uncombed curls,

sweating eau de toilette
that forces you both to remember
the hollows she cannot scent.

Several soldiers’ buttons
glitter in her trowel, a spectacular find
that conjures and erases

the sad, stained trench
in which their bodies vanished.
Your mother gives a cry of surprise.

The child she bore
bears you no resemblance; only
this habit of losing your soul

suggests yours is the head
she brushed, in a perfumed cloud,
straightening what wasn’t tangled,

as something rolled across the floor,
where she would never find it. 
Many surrenders later,

what glittered and rolled
perforated by equidistant holes
while you froze in her haze of fragrance

has surfaced among the spears of crocus,
as though the boys who burst their buttons
jabbing dummies with bayonets

had risen from their graves,
untangled, untarnished,
ready to forgive.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin is the author of Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015).

by this poet

poem

No matter how old you are,
it helps to be young
when you’re coming to life,

to be unfinished, a mysterious statement,
a journey from star to star.
So break out a box of Crayolas

and draw your family
looking uncomfortably away
from the you you’ve exchanged

for the

poem

Let's not kill or die today.
Let's make angels out of yarn, men of snow, mashed potato animals
that smile as we spoon
their eyes of melted butter.

Instead of killing ourselves or one another,
let's neatly stack anxiety's sweaters
and scratch our itchy

poem

            October 24, 2006

I’m alive you say
to no one in particular.

You are no one in particular.
That’s a good thing. The street is filled with souls

nested in good-looking bodies
that aren’t looking

in your direction. Someone is singing,
someone’s holding