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About this poet

Rachel Zucker was born in 1971 in New York City and was raised in Greenwich Village. She earned her BA in psychology at Yale University, then her MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa.

Zucker is the author of five books of poetry: The Pedestrians (Wave Books, 2014), Museum of Accidents (Wave Books, 2009), The Bad Wife Handbook (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), The Last Clear Narrative (Wesleyan University Press, 2004), and Eating in the Underworld (Wesleyan University Press, 2003). In addition to her poetry collections, Zucker has also published a memoir, MOTHERs (Counterpath Press, 2013), which details Zucker's relationship with her mother, as well as the various surrogate mothers and female mentors she has had in her life.

Zucker's work is known for its blunt, witty, and complicated takes on marriage, motherhood, familial relationships, and daily challenges. Dan Chiasson writes, “Zucker's name-naming, carping, merciless, and gloriously human body of work thus far suggests that any full account of being an individual has to register how specimen-like and interchangeable our lives often seem.”

“Zucker is a poet of bottom-scraping, blood-chilling existential anxiety, one among many, and a poet of New York City, one among many, and a poet of American Jewish inheritance, one among many, and one of the funniest, too,” writes Stephen Burt.

Her honors include the Barrow Street Poetry Prize; the Center for Book Arts Award, judged by Lynn Emanuel; the Salt Hill Poetry Award, judged by C. D. Wright; and the Strousse Award from Prairie Schooner. In 2012, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Zucker currently teaches at New York University and the 92nd Street Y and is a certified labor doula. She lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Pedestrians (Wave Books, 2014)
Museum of Accidents (Wave Books, 2009)
The Bad Wife Handbook (Wesleyan University Press, 2007)
The Last Clear Narrative (Wesleyan University Press, 2004)
Eating in the Underworld (Wesleyan University Press, 2003)

Nonfiction
MOTHERs (Counterpath Press, 2013)

Letter [Persephone to Demeter]

Rachel Zucker

At home, the bells were a high light-yellow
with no silver or gray just buttercup or sugar-and-lemon.

Here bodies are lined in blue against the sea.
And where red is red there is only red.

I have to be blue to bathe in the sea.
Red, to live in the red room with red air

to rest my head, red cheek down, on the red table.

Above, it was so green: brown, yellow, white, green.
My longing for red furious, sexual.

There things were alive but nothing moved.
Now I live near the sea in a place which has no blue and is not the sea.

Gulls flock, leeward then tangent
and pigeons bully them off the ground.

Hardly alive, almost blind-a hot geometry casts off
every color of the world. Everything moves, nothing alive.

In the red room there is a sky which is painted over in red
but is not red and was, once, the sky.

This is how I live.

A red table in a red room filled with air.
A woman, edged in blue, bathing in the blue sea.

The surface like the pale, scaled skin of fish
far below or above or away—

 

From Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Zucker. Reproduced by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

From Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Zucker. Reproduced by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

Rachel Zucker

Rachel Zucker

Rachel Zucker was born in 1971 in New York City and was raised in Greenwich Village. She earned her BA in psychology at Yale University, then her MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa.

by this poet

poem

I skim sadness like fat off the surface
of cooling soup. Don't care about
metaphor but wish it would arrive
me. There’s a cool current of air
this hot day I want to ride.
I have no lover, not even my love.
I have no other, not even I.

poem
Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still
poem
A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and 
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was 
happy to