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About this poet

Deborah Landau grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and earned a BA from Stanford University. She went on to receive an MA in English from Columbia University and a PhD in English from Brown University, where she was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow.

Her first poetry collection, Orchidelirium (Anhinga Press, 2004), was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. In her citation, Nye wrote, “Hooray for a writer who can weave presence and absence, longing and loss of longing, into a tapestry of language as rich, honest, and compelling as this.”

She is also the author of The Uses of the Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) and The Last Usable Hour (Copper Canyon Press, 2011).

Landau’s poems are known for their frequent concern with the everyday; in an interview with The Talks, she says, “So much happens on the inside—in the mind—that even the most ordinary days often feel mysterious, wild, exhilarating. When a poem works, the familiar is made strange again, and life is revealed in all of its inarticulable weirdness.”

Landau directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University, and she lives with her husband and children in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

The Uses of the Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2015)
The Last Usable Hour (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Orchidelirium (Anhinga Press, 2004)

Domestic

At night, down the hall into the bedroom we go.
In the morning we enter the kitchen.
Places, please. On like this,

without alarm. I am the talker and taker
he is the giver and the bedroom man.
We are out of order but not broken.

He says, let's make this one short.
She says, what do you mean?
We set out and got nearer.

Along the way some loved ones died.
Whole summers ruined that way.
Take me to the door, take me in your arms.

Mother's been dead a decade
but her voice comes back to me now and often.
Life accumulates, a series of commas,

first this, then that, then him, then here.
A clump of matter (paragraph)
and here we are: minutes, years.

Wait, I am trying to establish
something with these people.
Him, her, him. We make a little pantomime.

Family, I say, wake up. The sentences
one then another one, in a line. And then
we go on like that, for a long time.


About this poem:
"'Domestic' is part of a new manuscript, The Uses of the Body, which explores themes of gender, desire, marriage, monogamy, mortality (subjects I've written about previously) as well as pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood (subjects I've been reluctant to explore in poetry for fear of risking sentimentality). Although this material may seem familiar, I feel compelled to find fresh language, form, and syntax that can capture the immense strangeness of these experiences. This poem ('Domestic') comes at the end of a long sequence about marriage and domestic life."

Deborah Landau

Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Landau. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Landau. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Deborah Landau

Deborah Landau

Deborah Landau is the author of three books of poems, including The Uses of the Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2015). She teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

by this poet

poem

I’m on a bike and someone’s name is forming.

The road is potholes the road is dust.

Cruising the dirt, the meadow humming with bugs.

Dust rising, tires crushing rock, bats ejecting from under the barn

streaming the insected air the pulse life repeating life looping

poem
the moon might rise and it might not
and if it brings a ghost light we will read beneath it

and if it returns to earth
we will listen for its phrases

and if I'm alone at the bedside table
I will have a ghost book to refer to

and when I lie back I'll see its imprint 
beneath my blood-red lids:

not lettered
poem

Before you have kids,
you get a dog.

Then when you get a baby,
you wait for the dog to die.

When the dog dies,
it’s a relief.

When your babies aren’t babies,
you want a dog again.

The uses of the body,
you see where they end.

But we are only in the middle,