poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

occasions

About this poet

On January 10, 1952, Dorianne Laux was born in Augusta, Maine. She worked as a sanatorium cook, a gas station manager, a maid, and a donut holer before receiving a BA in English from Mills College in 1988.

Laux is the author of several collections of poetry, The Book of Women (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012); The Book of Men (W.W. Norton, 2011), which won The Paterson Prize and The Roanoke-Chowan Award; Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton, 2005), which was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, chosen by Ai, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Smoke (BOA Editions, 2000); What We Carry (BOA Editions, 1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Awake (BOA Editions, 1990), which was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Book Critics Award for Poetry. Her poems have been translated into French, Italian, Korean, Romanian, Afrikaans, Dutch, and Brazilian Portuguese.

About Laux's work, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, "Her poems are those of a grown American woman, one who looks clearly, passionately, and affectionately at rites of passage, motherhood, the life of work, sisterhood, and especially sexual love, in a celebratory fashion."

Laux is also coauthor (with Kim Addonizio) of The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (W.W. Norton, 1997). Among her awards are a Pushcart Prize, an Editor's Choice III Award, The Best American Poetry in 1999, 2006 and 2013, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Laux has taught at the University of Oregon's Program in Creative Writing. She now lives with her husband, poet Joseph Millar, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she teachings in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.




Bibliography

Poetry

The Book of Women (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012)
The Book of Men (W.W. Norton, 2011)
Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton, 2005)
Smoke (BOA Editions, 2000)
What We Carry (BOA Editions, 1994)
Awake (BOA Editions, 1990)

Prose

The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, coauthored with Kim Addonizio (W.W. Norton, 1997)

Nurse

My mother went to work each day
in a starched white dress, shoes
clamped to her feet like pale
mushrooms, two blue hearts pressed
into the sponge rubber soles.
When she came back home, her nylons
streaked with runs, a spatter
of blood across her bodice,
she sat at one end of the dinner table
and let us kids serve the spaghetti, sprinkle
the parmesan, cut the buttered loaf.
We poured black wine into the bell
of her glass as she unfastened
her burgundy hair, shook her head, and began.
And over the years we mastered it, how to listen
to stories of blocked intestines
while we twirled the pasta, of saws
teething cranium, drills boring holes in bone
as we crunched the crust of our sourdough,
carved the stems off our cauliflower.
We learned the importance of balance,
how an operation depends on
cooperation and a blend of skills,
the art of passing the salt
before it is asked for.
She taught us well, so that when Mary Ellen
ran the iron over her arm, no one wasted
a moment: My brother headed straight for the ice.
Our little sister uncapped the salve.
And I dialed the number under Ambulance,
my stomach turning to the smell
of singed skin, already planning the evening
meal, the raw fish thawing in its wrapper,
a perfect wedge of flesh.

From Awake. Copyright © 1990 by Dorianne Laux. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University Press, www.cmu.edu/universitypress.

From Awake. Copyright © 1990 by Dorianne Laux. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University Press, www.cmu.edu/universitypress.

Dorianne Laux

Dorianne Laux

The author of several collections of poetry, Dorianne Laux was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award for her book Facts About the Moon

by this poet

poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

2
poem

My daughter, ten and brown—another summer
in Arizona with her father—steps
nonchalantly down the ramp as planes
unfurl their ghostly plumes of smoke.
I had forgotten how his legs, dark
and lean as hers, once strode toward me
across a stretch of hammered sand.
And her shoulders,

poem

When my mother died
I was as far away
as I could be, on an arm of land
floating in the Atlantic
where boys walk shirtless
down the avenue
holding hands, and gulls sleep
on the battered pilings,
their bright beaks hidden
beneath one white wing. 

Maricopa, Arizona.

2