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About this poet

Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx in 1918. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she began writing poems at a young age. By her mid-teens, she was publishing poems in literary journals and anthologies. During the 1940s and 1950s, she worked in a factory in New York City and as a translator in Los Angeles.

In 1952, Replansky published her first book, Ring Song (Scribner), which was nominated for a National Book Award. She is also the author of Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012), which won the 2013 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994).

Replansky is known for her lifelong dedication to social causes. Of her work, Philip Levine writes, “Replansky is an intensely political poet, appalled by the cruelty, greed, and corruption of the masters of nations and corporations, appalled and enraged. I was drawn first to her lyricism, but I soon saw the rightness of her vision….”

B. H. Fairchild writes, “Replansky has become the master of a Blakean music radically unfashionable in its devotion to song-like meters and the reality and politics of working-class experience.”

With her partner, the writer and scholar Eva Kollisch, she received the 2015 Clara Lemlich Award honoring women who have spent their lives working for the larger good. She lives in New York City.


Bibliography

Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012)
The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994)
Ring Song (Scribner, 1952)

An Inheritance

Five dollars, four dollars, three dollars, two,
One, and none, and what do we do?” 
 
This is the worry that never got said
But ran so often in my mother's head
 
And showed so plain in my father's frown
That to us kids it drifted down.
 
It drifted down like soot, like snow,
In the dream-tossed Bronx, in the long ago.
 
I shook it off with a shake of the head.
I bounced my ball, I ate warm bread,
 
I skated down the steepest hill.
But I must have listened, against my will:
 
When the wind blows wrong, I can hear it today.
Then my mother's worry stops all play
 
And, as if in its rightful place,
My father's frown divides my face.
 

Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Replansky. “An Inheritance” originally appeared in The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Replansky. “An Inheritance” originally appeared in The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Naomi Replansky

Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx in 1918. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she began writing poems at a young age. By her mid-teens, she was publishing poems in literary journals and anthologies. During the 1940s and 1950s, she worked in a factory in New York City and as a translator in Los Angeles.

by this poet

poem
I met my Solitude. We two stood glaring.
I had to tremble, meeting her face to face.
Then she saying, and I with bent head hearing:
“You sent me forth to exile and disgrace,
 
“Most faithful of your friends, then most forsaken,
Forgotten in breast, in
poem
Tongue-tied, I stand before
Myself as inquisitor.
 
I loved to mark time
With a beat, with rhyme.
 
Time marked me with its thumb,
Slowed down the pendulum.
 
Slowed it down, or stopped:
Words were lopped, words
poem
Tentacled for food,
You range your underwater neighborhood.
 
To look, to like, to eat, to break your fast! 
Before you move an inch an hour is past,
 
Your prey is past, a swarm of scales, an eye,
A round fish eye, a rude unblinking eye.