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About this poet

Sophie Cabot Black was born in New York City in 1958 and grew up on a small farm in Connecticut. She received a BA from Marlboro College in 1980 and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University in 1984.

She is the author of The Exchange (Graywolf Press, 2013); The Descent (Graywolf Press, 2004), winner of the Connecticut Book Award; and The Misunderstanding of Nature (Graywolf Press, 1994), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. The Boston Review notes, “Black’s taut, resonant lyrics are chastened of all excess verbiage and reveal a poet of keen assurance and consummate craft, but perhaps what most amazes the reader is that such honed writing can speak with such emotional immediacy.”

In an interview for the New Yorker, Black says, “For me, the act of writing comes out of query. Each image turns to the next with its question and gets answered. Or with its answer it gets questioned. Poetry is my way to understand what is difficult. How one thing can be explained through another—is to get closer, to unhide what feels hidden.”

The recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Bunting Institute, Black has taught at the New School, Rutgers, and Columbia University. She divides her time between New York City and Wilton, Connecticut.


Selected Bibliography

The Exchange (Graywolf Press, 2013)
The Descent (Graywolf Press, 2004
The Misunderstanding of Nature (Graywolf Press, 1994)

Our House

As the leaves turn their backs on us
And the lilac gives over to dusk, nothing
Is ever certain, not even the house, stubborn

In twilight as it outlasts the grove
It was wrestled from. Those left behind,
The oak and ancient elm, lean against each other

As if in consent. Out of dirt, out of
Some small mistake, comes the seedling;
It too has learned to watch, as we walk in and out

Of what wilderness was, and will again become,
As we enter our home, the way we enter love
Returning from elsewhere to call out
Each other’s names, pulling the door closed behind us.

Sophie Cabot Black, "Our House"  from The Exchange (Graywolf Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Cabot Black. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Sophie Cabot Black, "Our House"  from The Exchange (Graywolf Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Cabot Black. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Sophie Cabot Black

Sophie Cabot Black

Sophie Cabot Black is the author of The Misunderstanding of Nature (Graywolf Press, 2013).

by this poet

poem
Not

that you are unloved
but that you love
and must decide which

to remember; tracks left
in the field, a language
of going away or coming back—

and to look up
from the single mind,
to let untangle

the far-off snow
from sky
until no longer

poem

This time it does not begin with the beaver
Instead only halfway up the mountain
Where the sheep we keep each year come through

Winter enough to answer us, enough
For us to shear, deft before the coming storm,
To take away from the body what it did not know

It grew and then

2
poem

Which cannot be written tries anyway—
From one room to another, each time startled
And does not want to hear of the already

Passed through, the country of before.
Poem that at each door believes itself
In the room closest to the end

Where finally everything will be gone over,