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About this poet

In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.

When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as director of the creative writing program.

He is the author of twelve collections of poems, including Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017), Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015), and Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013).

About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."

His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

He is currently a professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.


Selected Bibliography

Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017)
Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015)
Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013)
Dismantling the Angel (Parlor Press, 2013)
The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (Ausable Press, 2008)
Reliquaries (Ausable Press, 2005)
Oracle Figures (Ausable Press, 2003)
Cenotaph (Knopf, 2000)
The Late Romances (Knopf, 1997)
Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991)
Heartwood (Atheneum, 1988)
For the New Year (Atheneum, 1984)

Light By Which I Read

One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the 
      redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering, 
                                                         memory seen 
        through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The horizon edged with chalk, loose where the fabric frayed.
Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a 
       honeycomb.

                                  *

I begin to fathom the brittle intricacy of the window’s scrim of ice.
For years, I managed without memory—stalled, unnumbered, 
       abridged— 
No more alive than a dismembered saint enthroned in two hundred 
       reliquaries.
Now, it is hard not to say I remember, 
                                      hard, in fact, not to remember.
Now, I hear the filament’s quiver, its annoying high frequency, light 
       by which I read.

                                  *

River mist, mudbanks, and rushes mediate the dark matter 
Between two tomorrows: 
                      one an archive of chance effects, 
The other a necropolis of momentary appearances and sensations.
One, a stain of green, where a second wash bleeds into the first.
The other time-bound, fecund, slick with early rain.

                                  *

As if to impose a final hermeneutic, all at once the cicadas wind down.
The gooseberry bush looms like a moon: each berry taut, sour, aglow.
The creek runs tar in the cloud-light, mercury at dusk.
Then the frogs start up. 
                        Clay-cold at the marrow. A hollow pulse-tick.
And it seems, at last, I’ve shed my scorched and papery husk.

Copyright © 2005 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted with permission of Ausable Press.

Copyright © 2005 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted with permission of Ausable Press.

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Eric Pankey's first collection, For the New Year, won the 1984 Walt Whitman Award.

by this poet

poem

In the diorama’s replica world
Artificial light mimics storm glow
On the stage set of a prairie

Wet sheets slouch on a clothesline
A tornado touches down
On the curved horizon of the backdrop

Still miles away
Debris and wind have not yet
Reached the here and now

poem
An arctic, oblique light—
Grave, earthward—
Roughs in a snowfield's scoured basin,

A curved pine-flecked horizon,
As if onto a province
The door of an Advent calendar

Opened—parenthetical
Whispered as an aside,
Tallies and marginalia 

Erased, yet readable still
In the sleet-lacquered gullies
And scored rock
poem
In the movement toward disappearance, 
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport