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Excerpted from West Mountain Epilogue: A Reading by Jay Parini from his New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Used with permission from Beacon Press.

About this poet

Jay Parini was born on April 2, 1948, in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Scranton. He earned his AB in 1970 from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. During his junior year, he studied abroad at the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, where he immediately returned after graduating from Lafayette to receive his PhD in 1975. It was during his time at the University of Saint Andrews that he began writing poetry. He published his first book of poems, Singing in Time (J. W. B. Laing, 1972), when he was a student there.

In 1975, Parini returned to the United States and began his academic career as an assistant English professor and director of the creative writing program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Two years later, he cofounded the New England Review with Sydney Lea. He later moved to Vermont, where he began his tenure as D. E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College in 1982.

Parini’s poetry collections include New and Collected Poems: 1975–2015 (Beacon Press, 2015), The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (Braziller, 2005), House of Days (Henry Holt, 1998), Town Life (Henry Holt, 1988), and Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982). His newest collection, West Mountain Epilogue, is forthcoming from Beacon Press.

Also a novelist, biographer, editor, and critic, Parini has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and William Faulkner. His most recent novels include The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville (Doubleday, 2010), The Apprentice Lover (Harper Perennial, 2003), Benjamin’s Crossing (Holt, 1996), and The Last Station (Holt, 1990), which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film.

Parini has received honorary degrees from Lafayette College and the University of Scranton and fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.

He currently teaches at Middlebury College and lives with his wife in Weybridge, Vermont.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

New and Collected Poems: 1975–2015 (Beacon Press, 2015)
The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (Braziller, 2005)
House of Days (Henry Holt and Co., 1998)
Town Life (Henry Holt and Co., 1988)
Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982)
Singing in Time (J. W. B. Laing, 1972)

Fiction

The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville (Doubleday, 2010)
The Apprentice Lover (Harper Perennial, 2003)
Benjamin’s Crossing (Henry Holt and Co., 1996)
The Last Station (Henry Holt and Co., 1990)
The Love Run (Blue Moon Books, 1989)
The Patch Boys (Henry Holt and Co., 1986)

Nonfiction

Jesus: The Human Face of God (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Doubleday, 2008)
Why Poetry Matters (Yale University Press, 2008)
The Art of Teaching (Oxford University Press, 2005)
One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner (Harper Collins, 2004)
Robert Frost: A Life (Henry Holt and Co., 1999)
Some Necessary Angels (Columbia University Press, 1997)
John Steinbeck: A Biography (Henry Holt and Co., 1995)
An Invitation to Poetry (Prentice-Hall, 1987)
Theodore Roethke, an American Romantic (University of Massachusetts Press, 1979)

 

Blessings

Blessings for these things:
the dandelion greens I picked in summer
and would douse with vinegar and oil
at grandma’s little house in Pennsylvania,
near the river. Or the small potatoes
she would spade to boil and butter,
which I ate like fruit with greasy fingers.

Blessings for my friend, thirteen
that summer when we prayed by diving from a cliff
on Sunday mornings in the church
of mud and pebbles, foam and moss.
I will not forget the fizz and tingle,
sunning in wet skin on flat, cool rocks,
so drenched in summer.

And for you, my love, blessings
for the times we lay so naked in a bed
without the sense of turbulence or tides.
I could just believe the softness of our skin,
those sheets like clouds,
how when the sunlight turned to roses,
neither of us dared to move or breathe.

Blessings on these things and more:
the rivers and the houses full of light,
the bitter weeds that taste like sun,
dirt-sweetened spuds,
the hard bright pebbles, spongy mosses,
lifting of our bodies into whiffs of cloud,
all sleep-warm pillows in the break of dawn.

From New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.

From New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.

Jay Parini

Jay Parini

Jay Parini has published multiple collections of poetry, as well as novels, biographies and academic texts. He has received honorary degrees from Lafayette College and the University of Scranton and fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.

by this poet

poem

I didn’t mean to stay so late
or lie there in the grass
all summer afternoon and thoughtless
as the kite of sun caught in the tree-limbs
and the crimson field began to burn,
then tilt way.
I hung on
handily as night lit up the sky’s black skull
and star-flakes fell as if

poem

Days come and go:
this bird by minute, hour by leaf,
a calendar of loss.

I shift through woods, sifting
the air for August cadences
and walk beyond the boundaries I’ve kept

for months, past loose stone walls,
the fences breaking into sticks,
the poems always spilling into

poem

My father in this lonely room of prayer
listens at the window
in the little house of his own dreams.

He has come a long way just to listen,
over seas and sorrow, through the narrow gate
of his deliverance.

And he dwells here now,
beyond the valley and the shadow, too,
in