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About this poet

Tom Sleigh was born in Mount Pleasant, Texas. He attended the California Institute of the Arts and Evergreen State College, and earned an MA from Johns Hopkins University.

Sleigh is the author of several books of poetry, including House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018); Station Zed (Graywolf Press, 2015); Army Cats (Graywolf Press, 2011), winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; and Far Side of the Earth (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), winner of an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

He has also published a translation of Euripides's Herakles and two books of essays, The Land between Two Rivers: Poetry in an Age of Refugees (Graywolf Press, 2018) and Interview with a Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2006).

About Sleigh's work, the poet Philip Levine wrote in Ploughshares: "Sleigh's reviewers use words such as 'adept,' 'elegant,' and 'classical.' Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas that are enacted in these poems, the deep encounters that often shatter the participants and occasionally restore them. What delights me most is seeing a poet of his accomplishments and his large and well-earned reputation suddenly veer into a new arena of both our daily and our mythical lives. For the writer, such daring may be its own reward; for the reader, it is thrilling to overhear a writer pushing into greatness."

Seamus Heaney has said of Sleigh’s poems: "Tom Sleigh’s poetry is hard-earned and well founded. I great admire the way it refuses to cut emotional corners and yet achieves a sense of lyric absolution."

Sleigh has also worked as a journalist in Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya, Iraq, and Libya. He has received the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, an Individual Writer's Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, and fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among many others. He is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn.



Selected Bibliography

Poetry
House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018)
Station Zed (Graywolf Press, 2015)
Army Cats (Graywolf Press, 2011)
Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
Far Side of the Earth (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
The Dreamhouse (University of Chicago Press, 1999)
The Chain (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
Waking (University of Chicago Press, 1990)
After One (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)

Prose
The Land between Two Rivers: Poetry in an Age of Refugees (Graywolf Press, 2018)
Interview With a Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2006)

Translation
Herakles by Euripides (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Face

                     i.m. Mark Strand

Mark came into the room and said, Tom, you have
the face of a dog. Alan, you have the face
of a horse. And me, I have the face of—

but Mark couldn’t decide what kind of face
he had, or else I couldn’t in the dream
remember or maybe it was that the dream

couldn’t remember. And in the second part
of the dream Mark came into the room smiling
and laughing, and after a while he left the room

and Alan said, It’s only natural he wants
to have a good time. And when Mark didn’t come
back for a while, I went looking for him,

and though I knew where he was, I couldn’t find him.
And in the third part of the dream, Mark came
back into the room and said, No, Alan, you

have the face of a dog, Tom, you have
the face of a horse, and me, I have—
but he never did say what kind of face he had.

And in the fourth part of the dream, Mark came
back into the room and said, No, no, it’s me!
I have the face of a horse! I have the face of a dog!

And in the fifth part of the dream—
but there was no fifth part of the dream—
only Alan, me, horse, dog, and Mark

coming and going, coming and going in the room.

Originally published in House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.

Originally published in House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is the author of nine books of poetry, a translation of Euripides' Herakles, and a book of essays. 

by this poet

poem
1
The cathedral being built 
around our split level house was so airy, it stretched 
so high it was like a cloud of granite 
and marble light the house rose up inside. 

At the time I didn’t notice masons laying courses 
of stone ascending, flying buttresses 
pushing back forces that would have crushed our
poem
Because the burn's unstable, burning too hot
in the liquid hydrogen suction line
and so causing vortices in the rocket fuel 

flaming hotter and hotter as the "big boy"
blasts off, crawling painfully slowly 
up the blank sky, then, when he blinks 

exploding white hot against his wincing
retina, the fireball's
poem
In my fantasy of fatherhood, in which I’m
your real father, not just the almost dad
arriving through random channels of divorce,
you and I don’t lie to one another—
shrugging each other off when words
get the best of us but coming
full circle with wan smiles.
When you hole up inside yourself,
headphones and