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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)

Night Prayer for Various Trades

Machinist in the pillow's grip,
Be clumsy and be blind
And let the gears spin free, and turn
No metal in your mind.
 
Long, long may the actress lie
In slumber like a stone,
The helpless words that rise from sleep
Be no words but her own.
 
Laborer, drift through a dark
Remote from clay and lime.
O do not tunnel through the night
In unpaid overtime.
 
You out-of-work, walk into sleep.
It will not ask to see
Your proof of skill or strength or youth
And shows its movies free.
 
And may the streetcleaner float down
A spotless avenue.
Who red-eyed wake at morning break
All have enough to do.
 
Enough to do. Now let the day
Its own accountings keep.
But may our dreams keep other time
Throughout our sprawling sleep.
 

Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Replansky. “Night Prayer for Various Trades” 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. “Night Prayer for Various Trades” 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
1.
My blurring eyes, my deafened ears—
O careless sadism of the years!
 
Sun-loving and sun-ravaged skin—
One-sided love has done you in.
 
My teeth—less said, less missed!—my heart—
My runaway, my telltale heart—
 
poem
Poet (kneels stiffly):
 
I beg you, Muse, come down, come down and redeem me! 
You used to arrive any time, you would come for no reason.
Now, though the sweat of death stood on my forehead,
No song would be shaken.
 
Muse:
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