poem index

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

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)

Catalogue

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—
 
Heart whose misfirings can defeat
The pulse of this iambic beat! 
 
(While hypochondria detects
Whatever ill it hears of next.)
 
2.
In couplets that are not heroic
I try to say, in accents stoic:
 
For every rusting body-fetter
Perhaps my wit will work the better.
 
I will not be subservient
To every ruined ligament!
 
I'll prove on my anatomy
A body-mind dichotomy!
 
3.
Brave words! No use! I cannot force
Such an unnatural divorce.
 
My body! You have stood by me
Through insult and through injury
 
Some eighty years. How can my mind,
Seeing you slow, not lag behind?
 
Its sharpness dulls, yet feels each ache.
How not to mourn for your sweet sake?
 
My generous, my failing host,
O do not yet give up this ghost.
 
Kindle for me a little spark,
For I am whistling in the dark.
 

Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Replansky. “Catalogue” originally appeared in Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books, 2012). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Replansky. “Catalogue” originally appeared in Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books, 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
I met my Solitude. We two stood glaring.
I had to tremble, meeting her face to face.
Then she saying, and I with bent head hearing:
“You sent me forth to exile and disgrace,
 
“Most faithful of your friends, then most forsaken,
Forgotten in breast, in
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.
poem
Machinist in the pillow's grip,
Be clumsy and be blind
And let the gears spin free, and turn
No metal in your mind.
 
Long, long may the actress lie
In slumber like a stone,
The helpless words that rise from sleep
Be no words but her