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About this poet

Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, including The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986).

About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."

In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University's low-residency poetry MFA program. She divides her time between New York City and Princeton, New Jersey.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010)
The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)
The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)
The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Prose

Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000)
The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994)
Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986)

Birdcall

        —for Elizabeth Bishop

Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,

Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon,

Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in 
Query and in response, a genetic libretto rehearsed
Tens of thousands of years beginning to leave its indelible trace,

Clawprint of language, ritual, dense winged seed,
Or as someone were slowly buttoning a shirt.
I am happy to lie in the grass and listen, as if at the dawn of reason,

To the clear communal command
That is flinging creaturely will into existence,
Designing itself to desire survival,

Liberty, companionship, 
Then the bird near me, my bird, stops inquiring, while the other
Off in the woods continues calling faintly, but with that upward

Inflection, I’m here, I’m here,
I’m here, here, the call opens a path through boughs still clothed
By foliage, until it sounds like entreaty, like anxiety, like life

Imitating the pivotal move of Whitman’s "Out of the Cradle,"
Where the lovebird’s futile song to its absent mate teaches the child
Death—which the ocean also whispers—

Death, death, death it softly whispers,
Like an old crone bending aside over a cradle, Whitman says, 
Or the like the teapot in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s kitchen,

Here at one end of the chain of being, 
That whistles a song of presence and departure,
Creating comfort but also calling for tears.

From No Heaven by Suskin Ostriker © 2005. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

From No Heaven by Suskin Ostriker © 2005. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, Alicia Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

His speed and strength, which is the strength of ten
years, races me home from the pool.
First I am ahead, Niké, on my bicycle,
no hands, and the Times crossword tucked in my rack,
then he is ahead, the Green Hornet,
buzzing up Witherspoon,
flashing around the corner to Nassau

poem

My husband says dark matter is a reality
not just some theory invented by adolescent computers
he can prove it exists and is everywhere

forming invisible haloes around everything
and somehow because of gravity
holding everything loosely together

the way a child wants to escape its

poem

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
implied by
your up-ended
skirt

To be

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