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About this poet

Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1925. His recent books of poetry include Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), Save the Last Dance (2008); Everything Is Burning (2005); American Sonnets (2002); Last Blue: Poems (2000); This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998), which won the National Book Award; Odd Mercy (1995); and Bread Without Sugar (1992), winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize.

His other books include Stealing History (Trinity University Press, 2012); Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems (1990); Two Long Poems (1990); Lovesick (1987); Paradise Poems (1984); The Red Coal (1981), which received the Melville Caine Award from the Poetry Society of America; Lucky Life, the 1977 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; and Rejoicings (1973).

About his work, Toi Derricotte has said, "Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there. Their lyrical ecstasies take you up for that moment so that your vision is changed, you are changed. The voice is intimate, someone unafraid to be imperfect. Gerald Stern’s poems sing in praise of the natural world, and in outrage of whatever is antihuman."

His honors include the Paris Review's Bernard F. Conners Award, the Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Prize, four National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 2005, Stern was selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry.

Stern was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. For many years a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Stern now lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.

The Romantic

I resisted spending money and I held fast
against almost everything, including
washing machines and cheap cars.

I lived by my wits, you know that,
and came back to America
with eighteen dollars in my pocket,
but there were many of us
mostly in Dutch freighters
that unloaded in Hoboken
in a voyage of potatoes and gravy.

Did you ever see how small the seedpod is
for the black locust? I wrote about that.

Now I live under its shade
and protect it from farmers
looking for fence posts,
farmers whom I hate, saying
they have abandoned the one or two days they
spent with some early nineteenth-century poets
when their teachers, Miss This and Miss That,
who lived by yearning
especially when the sun broke through
their classroom windows on a June afternoon
almost giving way to sobbing,
with a book in one hand I remember
held high as if against the axe,
as if to give shelter, for that’s what
it was, oh Miss Pickard, Miss Schlessinger.

Copyright © 2018 Gerald Stern. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.

Copyright © 2018 Gerald Stern. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His recent poetry collections include Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), and Save the Last Dance (2008).

by this poet

poem
Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath 
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—

you don't know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy
poem

Nostradamus generally predicted the
future but he also shined a clear
light into the past and lived to
regret some of the visions he had
because they weren’t precise enough
and could have been used for nefarious
thoughts or perilous judgments since,
after all, he was a

poem
In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco 
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all