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About this poet

Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is the author of sixteen poetry collections, including Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), which received the 2017 Berru Award in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash from the Jewish Book Council; The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976.

About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."

In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University's low-residency poetry MFA program. In 2018 she was named New York Poet 2018 - 2020 by Governor Andrew Cuomo. She lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010)
The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)
The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)
The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Prose

Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000)
The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994)
Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986)

Move

Whether it’s a turtle who drags herself
Slowly to the sandlot, where she digs
The sandy nest she was born to dig

And lay leathery eggs in, or whether it’s salmon
Rocketing upstream
Toward pools that call, Bring your eggs here

And nowhere else in the world
, whether it is turtle-green
Ugliness and awkwardness, or the seething
Grace and gild of silky salmon, we

Are envious, our wishes speak out right here,
Thirsty for a destiny like theirs,
An absolute right choice

To end all choices. Is it memory,
We ask, is it a smell
They remember,

Or just what is it—some kind of blueprint
That makes them move, hot grain by grain,
Cold cascade above icy cascade,

Slipping through
Water’s fingers
A hundred miles

Inland from the easy, shiny sea?
And we also—in the company
Of our tribe

Or perhaps alone, like the turtle
On her wrinkled feet with the tapping nails—
We also are going to travel, we say let’s be

Oblivious to all, save
That we travel, and we say
When we reach the place we’ll know

We are in the right spot, somehow, like a breath
Entering a singer’s chest, that shapes itself
For the song that is to follow.

Copyright © 1987 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with the permission of the author.

Copyright © 1987 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with the permission of the author.

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, Alicia Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
I watched you walking up out of that hole

All day it had been raining
in that field in Southern Italy

rain beating down making puddles in the mud
hissing down on rocks from a sky enraged

I waited and was patient
finally you emerged and were immediately soaked

you stared at me without love in your large eyes
poem

As the body of the beloved is a window
through which we behold the blackness and vastness of space
pulsing with stars, and as the man

on the corner with his fruit stand is a window,
and the cherries, blackberries, raspberries
avocados and carrots are a rose window

like the one in

poem

Just finished folding laundry. There's the news. A slender prisoner, ankles shackled, nude back and legs striped by a brown substance you might take for blood but which probably is feces, hair long, arms extended at shoulder level like a dancer or like Jesus, walks toward a soldier with rolled-up pants and a gun,