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About this poet

On August 24, 1935, Rosmarie Waldrop was born in Kitzingen am Main, Germany. At the age of ten, she spent half a year acting with a traveling theater. She has studied at Würzburg, Freiburg, Aix-Marseille and Michigan Universities, earning her PhD in 1966. She has lived in the United States since 1958.

Waldrop began publishing her poetry in English in the late 1960s and since 1968 has been co-editor and publisher of Burning Deck Press with her husband, the poet and translator Keith Waldrop. The pair met in 1954 while he was stationed in Kitzingen after the Second World War.

She is now the author of more than three dozen books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, most recently her trilogy Curves to the Apple: The Reproduction of Profiles, Lawn of Excluded Middle, Reluctant Gravities (New Directions, 2006), and a collection of essays, Dissonance (University of Alabama Press, 2005).

Her other poetry titles include Splitting Image (2006), Blindsight (2004), Love, Like Pronouns (2003), Well Well Reality (1998, with Keith Waldrop), Reluctant Gravities (1999), Split Infinites (1998), Another Language: Selected Poems (1997), A Key Into the Language of America (1994), Lawn of the Excluded Middle (1993), Peculiar Motions (1990), Shorter American Memory (1988), The Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Streets Enough to Welcome Snow (1986), Differences for Four Hands (1984), Nothing Has Changed (1981), When They Have Senses (1980), The Road Is Everywhere or Stop This Body (1978), and The Aggressive Ways of the Casual Stranger (1972).

In the early 1970s, she spent a year in Paris, where she met several leading avant garde French poets, including Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Edmond Jabès. These writers not only influenced Waldrop's work greatly, but worked with her as she became one of the main translators of their work into English, with Burning Deck acting as a major vehicle in introducing their work to an English-language readership.

She has since translated more than twenty books, including works by Paul Celan, Elke Erb, Joseph Guglielmi, Emmanuel Hocquard, Friederike Mayröcker, Jacques Roubaud, and Alain Veinstein. She received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award for her 1993 rendering of The Book of Margins by Edmond Jabès.

About her work, the poet Diane Wakoski has said, "Rosmarie Waldrop writes the poetry of everyday life and asks her reader to look beyond it, not by dazzling you with spectacular images or fancy metaphors but by simply quietly invoking you to look, listen, reflect."

Waldrop's honors include the Rhode Island Governor's Arts Award, the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Citation for Translation, a Translation Center Award, and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in Poetry and Translation.

She has taught at Wesleyan University and, as occasional visitor, at Tufts and Brown. She currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Evening Sun

							for Sophie Hawkes

                                                     1

On a balcony onto the Seekonk stands. And full of thoughts of winter. My friend. And drunk with red wine I. Think of the power. Of a single word. Like for example "fact." When I know what matters. Is between.


But how with gnarled hands hold the many and how? The sun and shadow of Rhode Island? Let alone the earth?


Down swoops the hawk. From the sky over Providence. The sky over my head. Down to the leaves inward curled on the ground. But not like buds. Yellow. A cat is buried here and the leaves. Swirl up in the wind.


In the hour of the hawk. What is meant by: I think? Or even: I sit under clouds in which. Rain gathers weight. I sit in my mother's shawl which is. Threadbare. In my head I sit. By the river Euphrates. Strange like water the skies of the dead.


And high from the branches of the maple. Like a prelude to snow. White feathers.

 

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But music. Quickens the house down into its shadows. So trembles air in the sun and the shape of the tree blurs as if through a flame seen. Swarms of monarch butterflies stir and brush your cheeks. In celebration. In memory.


Almost visible the words of the song. Leave the singer’s mouth and rise up into the sun. Which goes crazy instead of down.


Floods, storms, fires. But a tank won’t be stopped by a word. Not even if you shout it from the middle of the road, with hands thrown forward and fingers spread out.


Nor by music. Though its power is great. Like the heat of noon it slants between body and soul. Difficult, then. Unaccustomed as we are to beauty. To know which is effect and which cause.


Not merely as a sailor is present in a ship am I. In my body. Intermingled.

 

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My father thought he had the gift to read the stars. To know if the light in a person’s eyes. Had gone out. To hypnotize. I stayed awake. Weak in the knees am I. Not a spiritual woman. And pulled toward the earth.


He said, you have to look from afar: what children we are, so gravely at play. In worn out light, in afterglow. Yet fire present is in words.


Which is why we try to read. The stone, the wood and grass, the cloud and lightning and air. And the ancients and poets. And the frogs croak in the swamps.


And to stand. Sky around your shoulders high on a mountain. Or balcony. And know you must cast. Like so many shadows. Your words onto the distance. Or paper. But will they span?


And the next morning you go to the bakery and ask for a loaf of rye. This too is work and without it the dream crumbles inside its glass case. And we must travel the ocean just to see it.

 

                                                   4

With great force our bodies are pulled out of our mothers. And ever since, we walk like almost orphans. With a scar on the brain.


And remember childhood among strings and puppets. Crutches. Knees under the chin tucked. And toy warriors with lance and shield and red badge to ensure courage.


Which we need to live in three dimensions. Of dry air. Or wet. Among gauges for measurement made of wire and string. That my father had looked at before.


And tapped with his finger to make sure. They were steady, not broken. And hitched his pants against gravity and tried to discern. The tether between particle and wave.


Tea has dribbled on his book. The letters under the drops enlarge till a wavy gray absorbs the excess. If however too deep you plunge, he thinks. Into thought. You can’t rest till you get to the bottom.

 

                                                  5

Let us take our time, Sophie, fitting bones to the earth. Though they are turning visible inside the flesh, and our blood. No longer overflows and spills.


Much work still to be done. And the smell of ripe peaches. And Long-Jing tea. And lungs full of words. And being an opaque body that intercepts the rays of the sun.

Blindsight, copyright © 2003 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Blindsight, copyright © 2003 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Rosmarie Waldrop

Rosmarie Waldrop

Born in Germany in 1935, Rosmarie Waldrop is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, fiction, and criticism

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