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About this poet

In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.

When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as director of the creative writing program.

He is the author of twelve collections of poems, including Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017), Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015), and Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013).

About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."

His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

He is currently a professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.


Selected Bibliography

Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017)
Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015)
Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013)
Dismantling the Angel (Parlor Press, 2013)
The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (Ausable Press, 2008)
Reliquaries (Ausable Press, 2005)
Oracle Figures (Ausable Press, 2003)
Cenotaph (Knopf, 2000)
The Late Romances (Knopf, 1997)
Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991)
Heartwood (Atheneum, 1988)
For the New Year (Atheneum, 1984)

Epitaph


Beyond the traceries of the auroras,
The fires of tattered sea foam,
The ghost-terrain of submerged icebergs;
Beyond a cinder dome's black sands, 
Beyond peninsula and archipelago,
Archipelago and far-flung islands,
You have made of exile a homeland,
Voyager, and of that chosen depth, a repose.

The eel shimmers and the dogfish darts,
A dance of crisscrosses and trespasses
Through distillate glints and nacreous silts,
And the sun, like fronds of royal palm
Wind-torn, tossed, lashes upon the wake,
But no lamplight mars or bleaches your realm,
A dark of sediment, spawn, slough, and lees,
Runoff, pitch-black, from the rivers of Psalms.

From Oracle Figures by Eric Pankey. First appeared in The Kenyon Review. Copyright © 2003 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted by permission of Ausable Press. All rights reserved.

From Oracle Figures by Eric Pankey. First appeared in The Kenyon Review. Copyright © 2003 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted by permission of Ausable Press. All rights reserved.

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Eric Pankey's first collection, For the New Year, won the 1984 Walt Whitman Award.

by this poet

poem

In the diorama’s replica world
Artificial light mimics storm glow
On the stage set of a prairie

Wet sheets slouch on a clothesline
A tornado touches down
On the curved horizon of the backdrop

Still miles away
Debris and wind have not yet
Reached the here and now

poem

1. Confederate Dead behind a Stone Wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia

Where the glass negative broke:
A silky, liquid black,
Like spilled scrivener’s ink,
Pools in the print’s margin.

                        : :

Mouth gone slack, eyes upward

poem
In the movement toward disappearance, 
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport