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About this poet

Born in 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ed Roberson earned his BA at the University of Pittsburgh and later completed graduate work at Goddard College. His first collection of poetry, When Thy King Is a Boy (Pitt Poetry), was released in 1970, the same year that he completed his undergraduate degree.

Roberson is the author of many poetry collections, including Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In (University of Iowa Press, 1995), Just In: Word of Navigational Change: New and Selected Work (Talisman House, 1998), Atmosphere Conditions (Green Integer, 1999), City Eclogue (Atelos, 2006), The New Wing of the Labyrinth (Singing Horse Press, 2009), and To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). Roberson's poetry has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2004 and Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, among other publications.

C.D. Wright has described Roberson's work as "lyric poetry of meticulous design and lasting emotional significance," comparing its musical qualities to the work of saxophonist Steve Lacy, jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Poet and critic Reginald Gibbons, in his review of The New Wing of the Labyrinth, celebrates Roberson as a "master of a hauntingly meditative rhythm of thought and perception."

Recipient of the Stephen Henderson Critics Award for Achievement in Literature, Roberson has also won an LA Times Book Award, the 2008 Shelley Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America, the 1998 National Poetry Series Award, and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. In 2017, he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement.

Formerly a professor of literature and creative writing at Rutgers University, Roberson now resides in Chicago, where he has taught at the University of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. He is currently Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern University.


There is nothing concrete to grasp in 
looking into the morning sky

The evidence of red-eye 
flights east a plane drawn line presents

is not a wheelbarrow solid enough 
dependency as day and night

carry   in coming and going
You don't see the poem

saying anything you can't see in it
White dashes of contrails' 

seemingly unmoving streak towards sunrise
disquiet the pale otherwise 

unpunctuated blue of dawn    
breaks it off                Here is that silence

Copyright © 2011 by Ed Roberson. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Ed Roberson. Used with permission of the author.

Ed Roberson

Ed Roberson

C.D. Wright has described Roberson's work as "lyric poetry of meticulous design and lasting emotional significance"

by this poet

 When I worked in the steel mill
the ceiling crane dropped a bolt
at my feet          the way the cat
leaves his catch on the doorstep
for me        to step over it
a bolt thick as a sparrow:
the gift of it:              it didn't
easy as eggshell crack my skull.

Walking underneath the el's
same bridge
                     The apparition of these faces in the crowd...)

riding the bullet train
the view passes by so fast
it is either a blur they say

or —like night lightning
strobes the raindrops
to a stop in midair

in that soundless moment—
maybe from the train you can glimpse
waiting there

one of