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About this poet

Joy Ladin was born in 1961 and received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1982. Ladin went on to earn an MFA in creative writing/poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1995 and a PhD in English from Princeton University in 2000.

Often devotional and at times based in history and utilizing sacred Jewish texts, Ladin’s early poetry “offers a personal view of the big truths,” writes Stanley Moss.

In 2007, Ladin became the first openly transgender employee of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution. Ladin has published numerous poetry collections, including The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017), Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015), Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009), The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007), and Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003).

Ladin is also the author of a memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). Ladin says, “When I started writing as myself, I started writing about feelings, tastes, colors, relationships, and I found myself writing with much more depth, confidence, authority and power, because I wasn’t hiding anymore. I had always lived in my writing, but now I was living in plain sight, living in truth, writing toward wholeness as a human being instead of trying to hide behind my words.”

Ladin is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Hadassah Brandeis Research Fellowship, two Forward Fives awards, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Ladin teaches at the Stern College of Yeshiva University, where she holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017)
Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017)
Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
The Definition of Joy (Sheep Meadow Press, 2012)
Coming to Life (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)
Psalms (Wipf & Stock, 2010)
Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)
The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007)
Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003)

Prose
Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012)
Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (2010)

A Modest Proposal

Let's not kill or die today.
Let's make angels out of yarn, men of snow, mashed potato animals
that smile as we spoon
their eyes of melted butter.

Instead of killing ourselves or one another,
let's neatly stack anxiety's sweaters
and scratch our itchy trigger fingers
by whittling turtles for our mothers,

or pretending to understand Heidegger,
or imagining the sexual embrace
through which time and space
first conceived of matter.

If we still aren't over killing and dying,
we can search the stacks for library books
that haven't circulated in generations
and savor the mold

that spores their spines
the way wine snobs savor the nose
of vintage wines bottled
between wars to end all wars.

Look, we've played all day
and haven't spilled a drop of blood
apart from the occasional paper cut.
In an hour or two, when it's very dark,

let's make up stories out of stars,
and fill them with all the killing and dying
we didn't do today, except in our imaginations.
Let's pull our comforters over our heads

and sing ourselves to sleep
like good little civilizations.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin is the author of Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015).

by this poet

poem

            for Yael

You are reporting on the leopard. You are only seven
and you already know the leopard
comes in greys as well as yellows.

The leopard’s children
tumble in the shadow of a rock.
Gazelle bolt in the distance.

Reporting on the

poem

            October 24, 2006

I’m alive you say
to no one in particular.

You are no one in particular.
That’s a good thing. The street is filled with souls

nested in good-looking bodies
that aren’t looking

in your direction. Someone is singing,
someone’s holding

poem

For Peggy Munson

That you must accept
what you cannot prevent.  That fear inverts
the meaning of success.  That you can be fearless

when fear is all you have.
That fear is all you have.
That you aren’t alone in loneliness,

there’s a whole world here,
a pregnant,